The Emergency 2.0 Wiki is an initiative of the Gov2qld community of practice and lead by Eileen Culleton who galvanised the group to share her vision to help build resilient communities, empowered with the knowledge to use social media to better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.
Following the Queensland Floods and Cyclone Yasi of early 2011, the Gov2qld group met to plan a crisis communications debriefing workshop to share learnings from the use of social media in these disasters. Eileen presented to the group her idea of capturing and leveraging these learnings by creating an emergency 2.0 wiki to provide practical guidance on how to use social media and web 2.0 in all phases of emergency management.
She shared her vision of an emergency 2.0 empowered community in which all sectors – emergency, government, nonprofits, community, business, education, media and the public had the knowledge to use social media to better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. This involved the wiki acting as a hub for collaboration and knowledge sharing across the community, locally and globally.
Eileen’s vision drew inspiration from a number of influences. Firstly, she is a childhood survivor of Cyclone Tracy, the most devastating cyclone in Australia’s history, which struck Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974, killing 71 people, injuring thousands, leaving 40,000 homeless, and resulting in the evacuation of 30,000 people in the biggest airlift Australia has seen. Her family lost everything, including the pets and family photos, and was evacuated to Brisbane, where they spent three months living in a migrant centre before returning to a city so devastated it had to be completely rebuilt.
A key memory she has from that harrowing experience was that for many hours no one in Australia knew what had happened. All communications infrastructure was destroyed and it was the amateur radio operators who provided the information lifeline for the city. She describes this early disaster as a powerful example of how members of the community, using the power of technology and their networks, can create a communication lifeline for a city. Back then it was amateur radio (limited by those few with a ham radio and license). Today that power is in the hands of anyone with a smart phone or access to the internet… if they know what to do.
Eileen’s identification of the need for a wiki also stems from her first hand experience in 2009 when she was project managing her council’s Twitter pilots, which included using the channel in emergencies. To inform the development of guidelines, she scoured the web for examples. While she found reports and case studies on using social media in emergencies, she couldn’t find practical guidelines and had to ‘start from scratch’.
During the Queensland Floods of January 2011, as her East Brisbane street flooded, Eileen, along with thousands of other Brisbane residents, utilised the Queensland Police Service, ABC and Brisbane City Council social media channels as an information lifeline. During Cyclone Yasi she was invited to visit the Ergon Energy headquarters to witness first hand the social media communications team in action helping and providing hope to impacted communities. On the grassroots community level, Eileen was inspired by the way her local East Brisbane Community Centre along with other groups including, FloodAid, Qld Floods.org, Baked Relief and Saveabusiness.com.au enabled the public to galvanise and mobilise to directly help people in need.
Eileen leads the Emergency 2.0 Wiki in a voluntary capacity. She also heads Byron Bay Social Media, a social enterprise consultancy with a mission to help governments, business and nonprofits harness the transformative power of social media for social good.
Eileen is the media spokesperson for the Emergency 2.0 Wiki and can be contacted via: