Search and rescue crews have been busy in recent weeks looking for missing people in communities across New Brunswick, but they are running into new challenges caused by social media.
The week started with the continued search for missing Mount Allison University student Christopher Metallic, 20.
News of the searches often spreads on social media sites, such as Facebook, but experienced emergency officials say the new technology is bringing new problems.
Don McCabe, the deputy fire chief in Moncton, said technology has made their job more efficient in some ways.
'It is very nice that people are caring and want to help out. But, having 300 or 400 extra people showing up to block the roads is not always the answer.' — Kenn Hong
"It's amazing what you can do with an iPhone, the apps you have, you can have compasses," he said.
But he said social media can invite too much attention to the search area and that can slow people down.
Kenn Hong, a member of the York Sunbury Search and Rescue, said he agrees about the pitfalls of social media.
In the midst of helping to search for Murielle Leger in Bouctouche, Hong said social media hype can lead to disorganization.
"It is very nice that people are caring and want to help out," he said.
"But, having 300 or 400 extra people showing up to block the roads is not always the answer, right?"
Crews searching for Christopher Metallic have run into similar problems in Sackville.
"Their concerns centre around the possibility that evidence or clues might be contaminated and/or lost by inexperienced and unguided searchers," according to a post on a Facebook group called Chris Metallic — Please help us bring him home.
"Therefore Chris' family and the RCMP is asking that the search effort be manned by authorized searchers only," the site states.
This isn’t the first time a New Brunswick search has run into problems because people are too eager to help.
About 300 people converged on a wooded area in Rusagonis in September to look for three missing children. At the time, search crews said the crowd complicated the search.
But both Hong and McCabe are quick to note that sites like Facebook are great for sharing information that can help find the missing person.
Someone may sit at home and hesitate about whether they should call to offer to help, said McCabe. "But they're some quick to take their BlackBerry out and start sending messages."
The best way to help authorities find a missing person, he said, is to phone in any tips and spread the word.