Coast Guard asks people stranded by Harvey to call instead of posting on social media

Catherine Shu

Despite a request from the U.S. Coast Guard to call their Houston Command Center for rescue instead of posting on social media, many local residents stranded by Hurricane Harvey are still tweeting pleas for help. Some say they keep getting busy signals when calling the Coast Guard. Other Twitter users have also set up accounts specifically for directing rescuers to stranded people.

In a tweet posted Sunday night, the U.S. Coast Guard said if callers get a busy signal, they should keep trying. Several replies pointed out, however, that people running out of phone battery can't keep waiting for someone to pick up.

Other Twitter users are asking people to send their address and details so they can contact the Coast Guard and other emergency services for them.

The Coast Guard’s request is understandable because using social media as a platform for emergency calls can lead to calls for help getting overlooked, misidentification, the spread of false information and even fraud. For desperate people who can’t reach call centers or recharge their phones, however, social media may be one of the few options they have.

Social media requests for help have already helped some Hurricane Harvey victims, including residents of a flooded assisted living center in Dickinson, Texas.