Between Hurricane Harvey and Irma, many areas have seen substantial flooding. The hours and days after the eye of the storm hits can be especially dangerous for flash flooding and water that is rising quickly. Many get a false sense of security as they weather the eye of the storm and are surprised by quick moving waters later. One resident in Daytona Beach became trapped in what looked like a hopeless situation as water suddenly rushed into her apartment. Kristina Barneski found herself knee deep in water with several more feet of water pounding on the door of her apartment. She tried to call for rescue, but the local 911 systems were overwhelmed.
When Barneski was not able to get through to local authorities, she started to get a bit more creative in her efforts to find help. Although her apartment was starting to flood, her smart phone still had a signal. She jumped onto social media and began texting with a friend 2,000 miles away to ask for help. This unlikely source, in the end, saved her life.
The texts with her friend in California started off very basic, the waters were coming in, and she did not know what to do. She was in a desperate situation, and she needed help. Her friend Hannah Brown tried to be supportive as she started to receive the frantic texts. Brown shared with her friend updates about the storm’s movements.
Texts between the pair became Barneskis lifeline. Her friend was able to stay in constant contact with her and brainstorm ideas about getting her a quicker rescue. At one point Brown started to contact friends in the area, but they knew this was not safe with the area curfew. Rescue from emergency crews could not happen until the morning, and this might have been too late.
Even though Brown was miles away in California, she had connections in Florida. The ladies had become friends when Brown lived in Daytona Beach. Brown attempted to connect with others in the area on Twitter. Her heartbreaking tweets about not being able to help her friend started to garner attention.
In the long hours of the darkness, the friends continued to text each other. Brown told her trapped friend to find a high piece of furniture or climb up on the kitchen counters to stay above water. She also suggested finding a white shirt or sheet to put out the window so rescuers could find her.
At some point, the texts stopped, and fear crept in. Brown started sending emergency information about surviving a flood as a last ditch effort to help her friend hand on until the rescue team could arrive in a few hours. It seemed at this point that things were getting worse.
Just as Brown almost lost hope, she got a surprising tweet and text. Her friend texted her that the fire department arrived and they got her out. The rescue team replied to her tweets that were now viral; they had her friend with them.
A quick thinking friend thousands of miles away put social media to use to save a friend that night. As Brown explained:
“Talk about the power of social media. She’s like family to me. I’d do anything for her.”
While some may point to social media being impersonal or moving so fast we become numb to important information, in this case having the ability to quickly connect with thousands of people possibly saved a life. Traditional means to make emergency contact were not working, but social media made the needed connection.
A simple text for support and help ended in a viral Twitter chain that landed in the hands of the Daytona Beach Fire Department. They were able to get Barneski out of her apartment and to a local shelter. Like many people caught in the hurricane, she only escaped with a handful of personal items. This did not seem to matter as she found comfort in reconnecting with Brown to share the details of the rescue. Between texts and Twitter, technology played a huge role in the pair being able to pick up their friendship right where they left off. Chances are they even made a new connection with the Daytona Beach Fire Department on Twitter.