JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As floodwater rushed into Houston homes, many people inside took to social media to post pleas for help.
As of Monday afternoon, Houston officials said 2,000 people had been rescued and there had been more than 75,000 calls to the 911 system. As the calls overwhelmed the system, people sought alternatives to cry for help.
“SOS…SOS…SOS…SOS…SOS…SOS. Family waiting on roof,” one tweet read.
“We’re at the Redford Square Apartments…we have a new born [sic] baby please help us,” another said.
A now-viral photo showed a flooded nursing home outside Houston. The people inside the building were later rescued.
Both the Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff’s Office sent tweets of their own, reminding people to call 911 rather than tweet or post on Facebook.
In Jacksonville, social media accounts for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have a similar warning.
JSO released a statement to First Coast News, saying, in part:
“All social media accounts have on them they are NOT monitored 24/7 because they are not and should not be utilized for emergency situations or situations needing a police response.”
But the statement goes on to say in certain times of crisis, like during hurricanes, JSO’s social media pages are up and running around the clock.
“Just like 911, social media gets inundated with hundreds of messages coming in at one time. We try our best to respond in those situations but it is not guaranteed.”
During Hurricane Matthew, a JSO spokesperson said they had a 24/7 social media presence for around 3.5 days straight. During that, they had 19,353 interactions with the public on social media; 15,235 interactions on Facebook, 3,358 on Twitter and 760 on Instagram.
JFRD told First Coast News in certain emergency situations there are people solely assigned to monitor social media.
Still, JSO cautions social media reports can never be guaranteed and should not be expected. Rather, all emergency reports should go through 911, which is staffed by JSO.
During emergency scenarios, like hurricanes, additional staff reports to the 911 center. JSO said there is a plan in place if the 911 center encounters a problem and they can and have transitioned to an alternate location.