SMEM and the Australian Bushfires

Post by: Kim Stephens

A Twitter chat occurred yesterday (1/25/2013) about the role of social media during the ongoing bushfires in Australia. The chat was organized and facilitated by Robert Dunne @Academy911, Joanna Lane @joannalane and Joanne White @joannewhite. Although I haven’t had time to read through the complete archive of hundreds of Tweets, some resources stood out to me that I’d like to share.

One of the items mentioned was this great presentation available on YouTube by CFA (Country Fire Authority) Digital Media Manager, Martin Anderson who discusses the integration of social media into emergency service procedures in Victoria, Australia. Mr. Anderson points out that the full adoption of social media had to come with three main changes in mindset:

  1. From: “We hold the info the community needs and we expect them to come to us.”  To: “We realize we need to go to the community.”
  2. From: “We will decide what the community needs.” To: “The community will tell us what they need.”
  3. From: “The public is a liability.” To: “The public is a resource.” See the full video below:

Some great examples of the many ways the Australian public can stay informed during this crisis were also shared during the discussion on Twitter. One emerging theme is  the move toward providing aggregated information from many different agencies and organizations along with a visualization of that content.

1. A great resource page  by HardenUp.org has been established for the bushfires that provides an aggregation of official social media channels as well as images posted by the public.  HardenUp is a project by Green Cross Australia who’s mission is to prepare the public for a changing climate “in ways that embrace sustainability and community resilience.” The resource page was inspired by the Queensland Public Alerts page, sponsored by the Queensland government.

2. The Country Fire Authority has a similar aggregated social media site aptly  called “Social Media Updates.” The page lists official social posts from the CFA Facebook and Twitter account, as well as from other relevant official accounts including for instance, the Melbourne Fire Bureau or MFB and traffic information from VicRoads, just to name a few.

MFA Mobile App

CFA: Fire Ready Smartphone Application

3. The CFA also has a FireReady mobile app. This app was mentioned during the chat, and I blogged about its features here.

4. The ABC Emergency website is a great resource that provides an aggregated list of all current alerts and warnings.  The site was set up in the wake of the Black Saturday Fires and Brisbane Floods by the Australian Broadcasting Company. I like that they don’t just provide information about the hazard, but also what the public can do to prepare themselves. The preparedness pages also include links to official agencies. For instance, the “Plan for a Bushfire” page has hyperlinks to each of the Fire Emergency Services.  The ABC’s stated purpose for the site:

[The public] can…use this site to plan for an emergencyaccess the latest emergency resources for your mobile phonelocate official emergency agencies in your State or Territory and learn from the experience of previous major emergencies.”

abcemergency

The caption states: ABC Emergency only publishes warnings from official sources. This is a list of official warnings currently available to the ABC. You should check with other sources for more warnings relevant to your area.

googleau

Google Crisis Response Map: Current Fires and Incidents

5. The Google Crisis Response team is also active in this disaster. Their NSW Crisis Map has current bushfire information.  They call this “…a mirror of the NSW Rural Fire Service Current Fires and Incidents map.”

This list represents just a few of the interesting resources made available to the public during this event. I hope these agencies will share their lessons learned: I look forward to hearing more about the role social media continues to play in the land “down-under.” What are you learning?

Thanks to Nathan Hunderwald or @smem911 for ReTweeting some of the best links.

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2 responses to “SMEM and the Australian Bushfires

  1. This is what Mary Jo was talking about yesterday

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  2. Pingback: SMEM and the Australian Bushfires « UASI – The Urban Area Security Initiatives Blog #UASI

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