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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