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A New Publication from GEAR Lab in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction


An article led by Dr. Lei Zou entitled "Social Media for Emergency Rescue: An Analysis of Rescue Requests on Twitter during Hurricane Harvey" is published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Congratulations!


This study analyzed rescue requests on Twitter during the 2017 Hurricane Harvey, in which many residents resorted to social media to call for help. The objectives include: (1) understand the characteristics of rescue-request messages; (2) reveal the spatial-temporal patterns of rescue requests; (3) determine the social-geographical conditions of communities needing rescue; and (4) identify the challenges of using social media for rescue and propose improvement strategies. About half of rescue requests either did not provide sufficient information or neglected to include rescue-related hashtags or accounts. Of the 824 geocoded unique rescue requests, 41% were from FEMA-defined minimal flood risk zones. Communities sending more rescue requests on Twitter were environmentally and socioeconomically more vulnerable. Finally, we derived a framework summarizing the steps and strategies needed to improve social media use for rescue operations.


This study made four main contributions, including:

  • Explained who, how, and why social media were used as a platform for emergency rescue.

  • Revealed the spatial-temporal patterns of rescue requests during 2017 Hurricane Harvey.

  • Determine the underlying geographical and social conditions of communities needing rescue.

  • Identified the challenges of using social media for rescue and proposed improvement suggestions.

More details about this work can be found in https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2022.103513.


Locations of identified rescue requests from Twitter during 2017 Hurricane Harvey.

The distribution of geographical-social characteristics among block groups with different percentages of households sending rescue requests on Twitter during Harvey.

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Geospatial Exploration and Resolution (GEAR) Lab

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