Despite a request from the U.S. Coast Guard to call their Houston Command Center for rescue instead of posting on social media, many local residents stranded by Hurricane Harvey are still tweeting pleas for help. Some say they keep getting busy signals when calling the Coast Guard. Other Twitter users have also set up accounts specifically for directing rescuers to stranded people.
In a tweet posted Sunday night, the U.S. Coast Guard said if callers get a busy signal, they should keep trying. Several replies pointed out, however, that people running out of phone battery can’t keep waiting for someone to pick up.
To report a #harvey emergency you must call numbers below or 911 for assistance. If busy keep trying. Do not report distress on social media pic.twitter.com/2YROOVWwDk
— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) August 28, 2017
I will do the same. I know you don’t have cell power. I’m actively helping others. @uscg you rock, but some folks can’t stay on dying phones
— indigosky42 (@indigosky42) August 28, 2017
Why doesn’t @USCG monitor their Twitter for emergencies instead of tweeting that people cannot use it?
911 is busy & people can’t recharge!
— Sparklepuff🎆💨 (@Sparklepuff2) August 28, 2017
Other Twitter users are asking people to send their address and details so they can contact the Coast Guard and other emergency services for them.
Enter details of rescue requests here. We are working with @HarveyRelief. Tweet us info if you can’t enter it. https://t.co/afCboNZuFf
— Harvey Flood Rescue (@HarveyRescue) August 28, 2017
Hurricane Harvey hit the southeast of Texas as a Category 4 hurricane this weekend, causing catastrophic flooding in the Houston area and killing at least five people.
The Coast Guard’s request is understandable because using social media as a platform for emergency calls can lead to calls for help getting overlooked, misidentification, the spread of false information and even fraud.
For desperate people who can’t reach call centers or recharge their phones, however, social media may be one of the few options they have and requests for help spread on Twitter or Facebook have already helped several Hurricane Harvey victims, including residents of a flooded assisted living center in Dickinson, Texas. Reddit users have also been gathering information about the hurricane compiled mostly from Twitter in a live thread.