Social media gets the word out during Irma emergency

Boats and buildings are damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Boats are partially submerged in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Floodwaters surround Gilbert's Resort in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Arthur Shine, of Key West, Fla., watches from his hotel window as Hurricane Irma hits in Fort Myers, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

ATLANTA — Social media has been a game-changer for Americans coping with natural disasters. Worried relatives, generous volunteers, frantic neighbors, even medical providers are going online to establish contact and send help.

Communicating is difficult because Hurricane Irma wiped out electricity and cell service to communities across Florida. Of particular concern is the Florida Keys, where remote islands have been cut off.

But Facebook's Safety Check feature is letting people tell friends and family they're OK. And many people are using Zello, a walkie-talkie application, to get word out about their conditions through other people who are able to spread word online.

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