Last week there was a massive, multi-day fire that began in Four Mile Canyon just to the west of downtown Boulder, CO. It started around 10:30 am on Labor Day and due to high, erratic winds that day it grew quickly. I live about an hour southeast of Boulder and could see the gigantic, fast-moving plumes of smoke from my back deck.
People live up in that area. Over 3500 residents were evacuated. By the time the fire was finally contained several days later, over 166 homes were lost. Thankfully no lives were lost.
From where I sat it took a while to get any of that information. The TV station websites were on it pretty quickly, but it was bare bones info, a few sentences. The newspaper sites had nothing until much later.
Enter Twitter. Immediately the hashtag #boulderfire was pumping out up-to-the-minute information and photos. The Twitter community in Boulder immediately rallied and began putting residents in contact with people who could help. They kept the information flowing in a constant stream.
By the next day local businesses began using twitter to offer goods and services to residents displaced by the fire: offers of meals, places to temporarily house pets, hotel rooms. Soon messages of encouragement and thanks to the local firefighters and police began appearing.
There was no promotional benefit to any of this. This was pure community outreach. Neighbors helping each other.
Wrapped up in our daily business lives it can be easy to forget how social media tools are perfectly designed for crisis management, to do good in completely non-commercial ways. Intellectually we know it’s all about “connecting” and engaging in the conversation, but sometimes events occur that shine a light directly on what that really means. It means more, a lot more.
You can follow the #boulderfire and #fourmilecanyon hashtags for the latest information or drop by the Downtown Boulder page on Facebook. They are doing a great job of keeping their community updated.