Australia — The importance of information we can all provide during emergencies like bushfires and floods is being increasingly recognised, according to a conference in Sydney.
Social media can be more than just a place to exchange information during times of disaster, Deanne Bird from Macquarie University suggests, it can be a source of community support, whether the moral support of interactions or the financial support of fundraisers.
Word of mouth passes the influence of social media further afield, too, she told the 2011 Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council and Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre conference.
In fact, a survey of a bushfire-affected community in regional New South Wales found other people were the main source of information in times of need, reveals Rebel Talbert from the NSW Rural Fire Service.
She says most of us want to know where the fire is, where it is safe to go, and how our family and friends are.
Information from within the community on each of these questions can be vital, and social media is increasingly where it is shared.
That means listening to on-the-ground reports via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is more and more a part of what emergency services do.
Collating social media coverage of emergency events while they occur is also on the rise, with an example being maps showing locations of tweets during the London riots.
Maurits Van der Vlugt says sharing first-hand accounts of an event is vital and his website, BushfireConnect, aims to do just that while also helping the community’s resilience by connecting them.
Hopefully none of us have to experience the use of social media in a disaster but you can follow your emergency services broadcaster, 702 ABC Sydney, at our Facebook and Twitter accounts.