Dropping the Social Media Ball in Australia

Moreton bay islands

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Post By: Kim Stephens

Ignoring social media as a form of crisis communications has consequences for local governments, no matter where you reside. Recently, I wrote about how the Queensland Police Service did an amazing job with social media to keep their population informed during the unprecedented flood events. Apparently, the fact that some communities were getting this service was not lost on surrounding areas that did not have access to the a constant stream of information and interaction.

As noted in a story in “The Westerner“, an online newspaper from down under, the local Moreton Bay Regional Council did not use facebook or twitter during the recent flooding events, even though they had a presence on those platforms. Apparently, officials there did a terrible job relaying emergency information, which people attributed to their lack of a social media presence. Last week, one councillor who was fed up with the problems of information flow pushed the other members to vote on whether or not to embrace social media as a means of emergency communications. The unanimous decision in favor was said to come “…on the back of sheer frustration of a lack of information getting to residents.”

Also, an Australian blogger recounts the story of how citizens reacted to this lack of information, which seemed to have caused some real problems: residents were told to flee rising flood waters via SMS text, without any subsequent information about where to go.
On Sunday, the weather began to worsen. Sheets of rain crashed down on the region, cutting roads. By that afternoon, Toogoolawah, west of Caboolture, had been isolated by floodwaters.  Rising water had swamped Gympie and Maryborough and cut the Bruce Highway just north of Caboolture and south of Gympie. A number of other local roads were also cut.
But residents searching for information on the road closures were not going to find it too easily. There would be no road condition reports provided on the Moreton Bay Regional Council’s website until the next day. Being a Sunday, no council officers were available to post the information online, leaving residents to search in vain. Many residents complained the warning had come too late to even get out of their homes.
The residents’ frustration was vented in the form of comments on the local newspapers website. This open forum for airing concerns also turned into a make-shift information exchange, again demonstrating the citizens thirst for knowledge from any source:

“When we got he notice to evacuate, my husband was stuck on one side of the river and I was at home with a car, dropped out electricity, so phone out, and then the mobile out. Tried ringing and ringing to get advice but no one answered. I will not forget this..” one resident wrote.

Another stated:I too am very disappointed with the council. I live between Sheep Station Crk and Caboolture river. Being stuck in the middle with no way out. No information from council as to what to do and where we could go. Disgraceful MBRC.”

Just wondering if anyone knows how Seeney Street in Caboolture is please? We have a house in the street and have not heard anything as yet.

Now that the Council’s facebook page is being utilized, they are still getting lambasted. One person posted on the page “way to drop the ball…” Others lamented that their small area didn’t get the media coverage other larger cities did, saying that this lack of media coverage should have prompted the council to provide even MORE information, not less.

The moral of the story is self-evident: learn how to use social media to the fullest extent, and learn it before the next emergency.
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2 responses to “Dropping the Social Media Ball in Australia

  1. Once you let the Genie out of the bottle, you have got to deal with him/her!

  2. Pingback: Five things we can already learn from Queensland Police use of social media | Digital skills for emergencies and resilience

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