How a ‘whole of community’ approach to using social media in times of crisis increases its effectiveness

ncs_socialmedia_program_thumbnailv02Last week we presented at a national public policy forum on how to improve the use of social media in times of crisis in Australia. Social Media in Times of Crisis brought together emergency management, government, business, research, political, policy and media leaders to share ideas in a bid to shape public policy on this important issue.

Hosted by public policy think tank Eidos Institute, in partnership with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), at the State Library in Brisbane, the conference showcased research from QUT and presentations from the Queensland Police Service Media Unit and the Department of Community Safety. Valuable ideas were shared and at once point the conference hashtag #SMTC13 even became a trending topic.

The Emergency 2.0 Wiki presentation outlined how proactively involving the ‘whole of community’: government, business, NGOs, schools, hospitals, community groups, media and the public, in using social media in times of crisis can greatly increase its effectiveness.

We provided a local, national and global perspective on how a whole of community approach has been successfully applied, showcasing New York City’s social media response to Hurricane Sandy and drawing on examples from this year’s Queensland floods and Victoria bushfires.

We demonstrated how engaging with the community as ‘partners’ in the emergency response, utilising social media for two way communication, amplification, collaboration and integration can powerfully assist communities to better prepare for, respond to and recover from disaster.

Our key recommendations for a ‘whole of community’ approach to using social media in times of crisis were:

  1. Provide tools and the platforms to help the public help themselves, each other and emergency services and official agencies eg emergency apps, crowdmaps
  2. Educate the public on how to use social media to help themselves, each other and emergency services
  3. Engage in two way communication – ask the public to help
  4. Engage digital volunteers


We would like to hear your thoughts on our presentation and welcome your comments and input.  We look forward to participating in the ongoing public policy discussion on this critical topic and to sharing the link to the conference report with you in the near future.


Eileen Culleton, Founder & CEO (voluntary)

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Emergency 2.0 Wiki presents at Smart Government Conference, Canberra

Government delegates from around Australia learnt how to use social media in emergencies thanks to our presentation at the Smart Government  Conference held in Canberra from 6-8 September.

From all levels of government (local, state and federal) and from sectors as diverse as the arts, health, community, environment, transport and roads, education and emergency; delegates learnt how to use social media in all phases of an emergency.

 This presentation can be viewed full screen for the best effect. You can zoom in and out if you need to also, to make the words bigger. Simply click on the arrow to move you through the stages of the presentation.


With the Emergency 2.0 Wiki site as the reference source, attendees learnt “How to use social media in emergency management – to help your agency, employees and customers better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.” Topics included:

  • setting up Facebook Accounts as a “one stop shop” for agency information and updates
  • locating online educational resources such as videos and smartphone apps on how to prepare for emergencies such as flood, cyclone or bushfire
  • empowering employees with the knowledge to find real time information that could save the lives of themselves and their loved ones, using Twitter, Smartphone Apps, Facebook and online maps
  • crowdsourcing real-time local information from the public using online community maps
  • monitoring the emergency and proactively responding to what is being said to, and about, the agency
  • planning for business continuity, establishing a temporary workforce and keeping in touch with geographically dislocated employees using Yammer, Skype and Google Docs
  • utilising social media to track and share real-time localised updates on the restoration of infrastructure and essential services and to promote the recovery efforts of other agencies, NGOs and community groups.

This presentation was important for a number of reasons. They key one being that we were able to share the message that all levels of government, from all sectors can help build community resilience – it is not just the domain of emergency services.

By leveraging the power of social media, government agencies can help their employees, their agencies and their customers to become more resilient to emergencies. While they may not be able to prevent emergencies and disasters, they can reduce their impact on communities.

And government agencies now have a resource to help them navigate how to use social media in emergency – the Emergency 2.0 Wiki (albeit, still under development).

Checkout the the presentation and share it with others. We’d love to hear what you think!