Amid Panic, Parisians Used Hashtag to Offer Shelter

Facebook activated 'Safety Check'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2015 10:15 AM CST
People line up to give blood at the St Louis hospital across the street from the Petit Cambodge restaurant in Paris Saturday Nov. 14, 2015, a day after over 120 people were killed.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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(Newser) – Amid the horror of the Paris terror attacks, there was a response from ordinary citizens that the city can be proud of. With the hashtag #PorteOuverte, meaning "open door," Parisians offered shelter to tourists and others stranded by the chaos, Mic reports. People were desperate to find safe havens because they had been evacuated from buildings but had been told the streets and public transport were unsafe, French-Algerian journalist Nabila Ramdani tells the BBC. Taxi drivers turned off their meters and started taking people home for free, while there were "many others stuck in shuttered bars, restaurants, some even locked in kitchens," tweeted France24 correspondent Sophie Pilgrim.

During the attacks, Facebook activated its new "Safety Check" feature for the fifth time ever and the first during a violent attack, reports the Wall Street Journal. The feature sends Facebook users in areas affected by a crisis a message asking whether they are safe, and then gives them the option of checking "Yes, let my friends know," to let their friends know they are OK. The feature was first activated after the Nepal earthquake earlier this year and was turned on during three subsequent natural disasters, the Journal notes. The Paris response could point the way for social media use during future crises, though Wired reports that there was one problem with the #PorteOuverte hashtag: So many people tweeted about how inspiring it was that users worried real offers of help might be crowded out. (Read more Paris stories.)

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