Social media is part of our everyday lives. Many of us stay up-to-date on world events and get our news by checking into various hashtags. More and more of us are checking our social media platforms for information on the topics and events that matter to us. But some of us are using social media platforms to share our knowledge and experience.
Amidst one of the most dangerous and serious wildfire seasons Saskatchewan has experienced to date, there are a few people who are using social media to not only report facts and figures, but to share the stories of people directly affected by the imminent danger that the wildfires in Northern Saskatchewan present.
Northern Saskatchewan Burns!
Saskatchewan is a tinderbox. Our northern forests are burning at a rate that includes three times as many hectares as what is considered normal. We’ve experienced the largest evacuation in Saskatchewan’s history with over 10 000 people evacuated from their homes and 400 000 hectares burned. These wildfires are dangerously close to destroying homes, cottages, and entire communities.
Many brave men and women are fighting these fires and hope to protect the communities in its path. Additional support from the Canadian Military, firefighters from other provinces and states, and other support people are helping to get this crisis under control. In the mean time, thousands of people are being housed in communities across Alberta and Saskatchewan. Even though they are safe from the fires’ destructive paths, they are worried about their communities and homes. What will they return to?
Getting to the heart of the matter…
Government organizations and media outlets are doing a good job reporting various stats and figures to help us better understand the seriousness of this situation. But facts and figures only tell us part of the story. There are a few people helping to tell the stories of the people affected. Let me introduce you to Jaydon Flett (@JadyonONO). She has been live tweeting during this crisis. In 140 characters, Flett showed us the hearts of the people affected.
A Peoples’ Story: Live Tweeting During a Crisis (@JaydonOno)
Jaydon “Ono” Flett is a Cree reporter and correspondent with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Born and raised in Manitoba, Jaydon began her career in film and television. She worked as writer, producer, and assistant director on various projects. Jaydon is now under contract with APTN National News. She is the youngest Aboriginal investigative journalist in North America.
On Thursday (July 2, 2015) Flett made her way through thick layers of ugly, orange smoke and into the community of Sucker River. Sucker River is home to approximately 400 people with two dozen of the residents volunteering to stay behind to protect homes and businesses.
Flett wanted to hear the stories of the people affected by the wildfires. An Elder, Miles Ratt, led her into the community of Sucker River. Almost every building in this community was equipped with a hastily equipped sprinkler system stemming from a muddy pond. Volunteers had chopped down trees to prevent the wildfires from spreading into the community. “There is something eerie about walking through a hazy, abandoned community, where only the clicks and hisses of sprinklers could be heard,” says Flett.
By Saturday (July 4, 2015) the wildfires had grown and the situation was dire. Flett was now in La Ronge and unable to return to Sucker River. Conservation Officers and firefighters in La Ronge were tense and couldn’t provide any current status updates or other information about the wildfires. Flett finally connected with Chief Tammy Cook-Searson and was told that an immediate mandatory evacuation order was now in effect. The evacuees were directed to report to the local community centre.
Jaydon quickly made her way the community centre, where it was clear that panic had set in. People were arriving with only the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry. They were confused. They did not know where they were going. They did not know if they’d have a place to stay when they got there. They did not know if or when they’d return home or whether they will have a home to return to. Jaydon wasn’t any more informed than these evacuees and decided to live tweet their stories.
Using Twitter to tell the story...
Many of us watching this crisis unfold were looking for updates and Flett provided them to us. Not only did she share facts and figures in 140 characters or less, she shared the stories of the evacuees as they were experiencing the evacuation. Here are some of their stories:
The human side of social media...
Flett told us about the human side of this situation. She used Twitter to do it. In 140 characters we were able to connect with folks and empathize with their situation. We understood the uncertainty they faced as they were leaving their homes behind. We felt their fear as they worried about what they were leaving behind. This is the power of social media in action.
Social media allows to connect to people. It is about humans connecting to humans. It helps us see the heart behind every story. In this case,Flett's use of Twitter helped many of us connect with these folks and inspired us to take action and help in any way we could. We volunteered. We donated. And we prayed. If not for her sharing these stories on Twitter we may have missed the most important part of this crisis - the hearts of the people affected.