As you can see, we have changed our logo from red to green. The reason for this is that our pro bono lawyer brought it to our attention that our logo resembled the Swiss Flag, which is actually protected under the Geneva Convention; meaning that the white cross on a red background is a protected symbol. As the universal emblem of protection in armed conflict, its use is restricted under international humanitarian law and requires the written permission of the government minister for defence in your country.
Of course, it is widely known that the emblem of the Red Cross is a symbol of protection from armed conflict under humanitarian law, but what we didn’t know is that this also applies to its reverse symbol.
This is not something that is commonly publicised or easily discovered online… for example if you do a “Google images” search of “white cross on red” as we did in the early days, you will come up with lots of emergency, first aid and medical images. A high level “Google everything” search of “white cross on red” and “Swiss flag” won’t alert you that that this symbol breaks the Geneva Convention. Nor will looking up “Swiss Flag”, “Geneva Convention” or “Protective Signs” on Wikipedia.
It’s when you start searching legal sites, such the Australasian Legal Information Institute, that you will discover the following reference (this is an extract, with bold, underline and Red Cross image added for effect):
GENEVA CONVENTIONS ACT 1957 – SECT 15
Use of Red Cross and other emblems, signs, signals, identity cards, insignia and uniforms
(a) the emblem of a red cross with vertical and horizontal arms of the same length on, and completely surrounded by, a white ground, or the designation “Red Cross” or “Geneva Cross”;
(d) the emblem of a white or silver cross with vertical and horizontal arms of the same length on, and completely surrounded by, a red ground, being the heraldic emblem of the Swiss Confederation;
We sincerely regret inadvertently using the symbol as we strongly respect the importance of symbols of protection from armed conflict and the need to ensure their integrity. And we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight our mistake as a warning to others and to share information on alternative symbols; and our rationale for the choice of our new logo.
In the Australian Red Cross Guide to emblem use, the alternatives below are promoted (extract from the site):
Why did we choose to go green?
We chose to go green for the Emergency 2.0 Wiki logo for three key reasons:
1. A white cross on green is the universal symbol for first aid. We believe that using social media for emergency communication is a form of ‘digital first aid’.
In an emergency, every second counts, and as the first person on the scene is usually a member of the public, if they are trained to give first aid, they can save lives. Just as first aid saves lives, so too does information in a major emergency or disaster. A member of the public at the scene, with a mobile device and social media, can act as an early warning sensor. By sharing emergency messages (and geocoded images), from the scene, with the world via social media, we are using ‘digital first aid’… helping to save lives… potentially countless lives.
What is also so powerful about “digital first aid” is that you don’t need to be on the scene to save lives. We can all share emergency messages; using the amplifying power of social media and our networks… and we can do so from the other side of the globe (hence our choice of the symbol of the globe in the background of the logo… this was in the original version; just not as obvious).
This is a core purpose of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki… to help educate and promote the use of ‘digital first aid’. For more examples, please see our blog post Creating Emergency 2.0 Ready Communities in 2012.
2. A white cross on green is the universal symbol for workplace/occupational health and safety. Our aim is for organisations to incorporate social media into workplace/occupational health and safety, along with their business continuity plans.
Just as employees are trained to activate a fire alarm in their building to alert people to danger, employees would also be taught to use social media for emergency communication and for their own safety. Organisations would have instructions on how to use social media in an emergency in their employee inductions (and intranet sites), emergency drills and emergency communications procedures. Employees would all know how to follow a Twitter #hashtag, what the key emergency agency sites are and how to find real-time online community maps. They would be shown emergency smart phone apps and relevant online resources such as “How to sandbag your home for flooding” on YouTube. They would also know how to amplify social media messages to help others. (See our Future Scenarios).
3. Green is a symbol for the environment and to highlight the issue of climate change. We also chose green, and the symbol of the earth in the background, because we want to draw attention to the correlation between climate change and disasters and the urgent need to build community resilience.
“The world’s vulnerability to disaster risks is growing faster than our ability to increase resilience. As a result of climate change, weather-related hazards are on the rise.” BAN Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
 BAN Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, Third Session, Geneva, Switzerland 8-13 May 2011, see Conference Proceedings via PreventionWeb.
We believe our new logo is a much better fit for the Emergency 2.0 Wiki and our objectives and we greatly look forward to working with you to help create Emergency 2.0 Ready Communities.
We would also like to thank our pro bono lawyer, Dr Joanne Redburn of NFP Lawyers (formerly of Hynes Laywers, also pro bono partners) for alerting us to the need to change our logo. And our top tip for voluntary groups is find a pro bono lawyer early; it could save you a lot of pain!
Massive thanks too, to Mammoth Media, our pro bono technology and web hosting partners, for covering the graphic design costs of developing our new logo.
From the founding directors (voluntary): Eileen Culleton (CEO), David Eade and Denver Gibson.