The Emergency 2.0 Wiki is winding up

We have news to share that the Emergency 2.0 Wiki is winding up. This is not a decision taken lightly, however after much consideration the board came to the conclusion that it is time.

The world today in 2018

It is a very different world today compared to 2011 when the Emergency 2.0 Wiki launched in the wake of the wave of disasters that swept across the globe – the Queensland floods 1 and Cyclone Yasi 2 in Australia, the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand 3, the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster 4 and Hurricane Irene in the USA 5.

We were inspired and galvanised by the life-saving potential social media offered to enable people to receive disaster alerts, along with the ability to help themselves and each other. Back then, very few emergency agencies were using social media. Of those who were, such as the Queensland Police in Australia 6 7 they were a testament to its life-saving power.

Gov2qld, a government focused social media community of practice in Queensland, Australia, formed a working group, appealing to counterparts across the world to volunteer to join us to create a global hub for knowledge sharing on best practice, as well as tools and tips for first responders and the community.

This received a very positive response and in December 2011, the Emergency 2.0 Wiki launched with a vision to help build resilient communities, empowered with the knowledge to use social media to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. Fast forward to 2018, looking at today’s emergency and disaster response social media landscape in Australia and internationally, we believe this vision is largely accomplished!

A new paradigm

The world has entered into a new paradigm. Social media is now an essential tool emergency agencies use to engage the public before, during and after an emergency event. Social media is also an essential tool the public use to share information with emergency services and with each other, as well as to rally to help their communities to recover.

Key to this new paradigm is Twitter 8, Facebook 9 and Google’s 10, proactive commitment to supporting emergency response. These initiatives include developing emergency alert tools for agencies, such as TwitterAlert  11, and other tools to help the community help themselves and each other, including Facebook’s Safety Check and Crisis Response  12 and Google Crisis Map 13.  

Pinnacle Milestone

We believe the Emergency 2.0 Wiki played an integral role in ushering in this new paradigm and our pinnacle milestone was our advocacy to ensure the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015:2030 – the global blueprint to build the world’s resilience to disasters – incorporated social media 14,  15,  16.

This UN framework has had a great impact on the global acceleration of government use of social media for disaster resilience. Since then many countries have developed or are developing national frameworks and policies to use social media and new technologies to build disaster resilience, in collaboration with the community.

For example In Australia where the Wiki is based, the federal government agency Emergency Management Australia 17 created the Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience (AIDR) 18 which has a national leadership and coordinating role in establishing national frameworks, policies, best practice guidelines, manuals and standardised training for using social media in emergencies and disasters. Its website also serves as an information hub and resource centre to share knowledge and global best practice  

While AIDR is now replicating most of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki’s objectives and activities, and in effect making the Wiki redundant in Australia, we actually welcome this, because this national government approach is what we have been advocating for locally and globally. We also wish to recognise that Emergency Management Australia was the primary sponsor for the Emergency 2.0 Wiki presentation in Switzerland to inform the development of the UN framework.

Honouring pioneers who helped shape the new paradigm

FEMA

We wish to highlight the pioneering and leadership role of the United States Government Federal Emergency Management Service (FEMA) in advocating for a “whole of community” approach in which the whole community (individuals, families, communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, and state, local, tribal, territorial, insular area, and federal governments)19 become partners in using social media in times of disasters. We encourage countries around the world to view FEMA’s extensive resources 20 including social media toolkits for inspiration and best practice.21 . We also thank them for referencing and linking to us in their first online social media for emergency management (SMEM) course 22.  

VOST Europe

Another important source of inspiration and leadership is VOST Europe with its digital volunteers working in Virtual Operations Support Teams (#VOST) supporting emergency services during crisis. Operating in eight languages, these VOSTs are highly regarded by the government agencies and communities they support and have received accolades at the highest level 23. Many of these VOSTs also operate in their own right, engaging with the public daily to build following and trust. VOST Europe has seen rapid expansion throughout the continent, ushering in a new paradigm for digital volunteering.

The model is outlined in a new guide for agencies working with VOSTs published by the European Emergency Number Association (EENA 112) 24

Given the Wiki’s history advocating internationally for governments to strengthen their emergency response capability by partnering with VOSTs, 25 and our alliance with VOST International (VOSG) 26, we are thrilled to see the recent rapid expansion in Europe and the growth in Central and South America (VOST Americas) 27.

Humanity Road

We would also like to honour Humanity Road 28 who are pioneers and global leaders in digital disaster response providing humanitarian aid. Their disaster desk manned by volunteers responds when natural disaster strikes around the world, connecting people, animals and emergency officials with help and resources. We are privileged to have an alliance 29 with this exceptional humanitarian organisation. 

#SMEM

We also wish to honour the #SMEM community in the US who were early pioneers in social media for emergency management and from whom we drew a number of our reference group members. We encourage practitioners to follow #smemchat, a live weekly Twitter chat for knowledge sharing, facilitated by the Virtual EMA 30. While primarily US focused, there are valuable tips shared.

Accessibility

Last, but certainly not least, we wish to honour those acting to ensure our most vulnerable in the community, those with disabilities, are being reached through social media in times of emergency. When this issue came to our attention, people with disabilities faced barriers in accessing social media. In times of disaster it meant a case of life or death. People with visual impairment could not access life-saving information via Twitter because it did not provide the capacity for “screen reading” and those with hearing impairment suffered similar barriers across a number of social media platforms.

Wiki Accessibility Toolkit page screenshot

In response we established the Accessibility Reference Group 31 and the Accessibility Toolkit 32 adapted from a social media accessibility guide with permission from Media Access Australia 33 who are strong advocates and innovators in the sector.  The reference group also engaged in informal knowledge sharing with the Social Media Accessibility Working Group, a committee within the United States Federal Social Media Community of Practice which developed an accessibility guide 34. Much progress has been made since then, but we implore the social media platforms to keep accessibility issues top of mind when they are planning new developments.

The Future of Wiki Resources

In the spirit of the Wiki, which is all about making information freely accessible to all, we would like to invite you to feel free to copy resources that are useful to you before we de-commission the website, planned for end February.

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Thank You

We would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who helped contribute to the Emergency 2.0 Wiki including:

“In today’s world, while we can’t always prevent emergencies and disasters, we can ensure that we quickly get lifesaving information to people and we can enable the community to help themselves and each other. Together, the Emergency 2.0 Wiki community has helped make our world more disaster resilient and we thank you for this!” Eileen Culleton (Founder and CEO)

Stay safe and keep helping each other.

With sincerest thanks,

The board of directors (voluntary): Eileen Culleton (Founder and CEO), Kerry McGoldrick, Craig Thomler

References

#IDRC2014 – Emergency 2.0 Wiki sponsor storify report

#IDRC2014 presThe Emergency 2.0 Wiki presentation at the 5th International Disaster and Risk Conference in Davos Switzerland (#IDRC2014) 26-28 August 2014 was made possible thanks to sponsorship by Emergency Management Australia. Here is a Storify report on how we thanked them on social media.