How to prepare for an emergency

From Emergency 2.0 Wiki

Revision as of 07:31, 5 November 2014 by Eileen.culleton (Talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Current revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Main Page | Tips for the public - How to prepare for an emergency

Contributor Info
Reference Group Emergency Preparation
Additional Contributors Eileen Culleton, Matthew Kassay

This Tips section is to provide user friendly tips to all members of the public on how to use social media to prepare for an Emergency.

We can all play a role in using social media to seek emergency information and share it to help our family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and communities.

Please note that to receive emergency information and updates, social media should be used in addition to the radio, TV, internet, and other communication such as subscribing to SMS messages.


Using social media

Learn how to use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Using social media for emergencies

  • Learn and practice how to take a photo on your mobile phone (and other mobile devices) and send with:
    • a text
    • a tweet
    • a facebook post
  • If you need to quickly write a longer message (that won't fit on a a tweet or text), you could create a note in Facebook, attach a photo and post that
    • You can also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts so that the subject lines of your Facebook notes are automotically tweeted, and link back to the detailed note. (For instructions see:
  • Learn and practice how to take a video on your mobile phone (and other mobile devices) and send with:
    • a text
    • a tweet
    • a facebook post

Additional resources for people with disabilities

Smartphone apps

For key emergency apps to download, please visit our Smartphone Apps page

  • - Look for emergency apps in your state and country and also globally.
  • - Specifically look for and download real time, location based apps that provide warning messages.
  • - Watch them now, and use them to create your preparedness plans
  • Download the apps for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube onto your mobile phone or other device so that you can receive emergency warnings wherever you are (once you are following emergency agencies)
  • - Make sure you have GPS enabled on your mobile phone to ensure you receive messages for emergencies wherever you are

Example Emergency Preparation Apps:

The FEMA App contains preparedness information for different types of disasters, an interactive checklist for emergency kits, a section to plan emergency meeting locations, information on how to stay safe and recover after a disaster, a map with FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations (one-stop centers where disaster survivors can access key relief services) and Shelters, general ways the public can get involved before and after a disaster, and the FEMA blog. FEMA App

The American Red Cross Shelter View Iphone App has locations of Evacuation Centres in the US.

ReadyQld is a free iPhone App created to help Queensland community prepare for disasters and emergencies and to provide real time updates on emergency volunteering news and current opportunities. The App also includes:

  • Videos for Emergency Preparation
  • Emergency Contacts list including social media contacts for emergency services
  • Checklist Stay/Go Kit

A number of states in Australia are releasing bushfire apps such as:

Youtube videos

  • Find and watch online educational videos on what to do to prepare for or respond to an emergency. Hints are:
    • visit our YouTube videos page.
    • check if your local council or emergency agency has a channel.
    • Find videos that are relevant to your locality if possible to ensure you have the most up to date information in regard to emergency warning signals, emergency contact numbers etc.
  • Favourite or bookmark the link so you can find it quickly.
  • Download the YouTube app onto your smartphone or Ipad, find the key videos you will need to refer to and bookmark them, so that you can view them wherever you are.

Find maps of hazards in your area

Search your local government agency website to see if they have published an online map showing the impact of past disasters and extreme weather events on the community.

Look for other organisations that might also provide this information

Use this information to help with your emergency preparation plan and your evacuation plan.

Look for maps relating to where you live, where you work, your children's school etc and the route between each.

Familiarise yourself with the hazards in each area

Make a plan for how you will get home from each key location you visit every day, noting which roads are prone to hazards eg flood or fire.

Bookmark/favourite the links to these maps on your computer at home, at work, on your smartphone and on other key devices.

Example Green Cross Australia 'Harden Up' disaster resilience portal encourages people to take practical steps to become more self reliant and resilient to severe weather events and diasters. The online map contains historical information and photos of the impact of severe weather events on local communities in the state of Queensland, Australia. [1]

Readiness Quizzes

  • To find online educational quizes and tip sheets on what to do to prepare for or respond to an emergency, visit the website of your state emergency agency or simply Google it.
  • Bear in mind that it is always best to find a quiz specific to your state and country to make sure you have the right emergency phone numbers.
  • Once you have done the quiz and taken steps to make sure yourself, your house and your family and neighbours are prepared, favourite or bookmark the link so you can find it quickly
  • Also do this on your smartphone and tablet

Emergency 2.0 Preparedness Checklist

  • Create a Facebook account (you can make it private to share only with your family)
  • Arrange with your family that in case of emergency you will also post a message on facebook to communicate that you are safe and where you are.
  • Use the Facebook Notes Page to put important information from your family emergency preparedness plan that you and your family can refer to as a central source eg evacuation checklist. (You choose who has access to your Notes Page)
  • Take photos of your children on your mobile phone and store them
  • Take photos of your pets and store them too.
  • Learn and practice how to send a photo with:
    • a text
    • a tweet
    • a facebook post
  • Practice this on your computer,your mobile phone, notebooks and other mobile devices
  • Save important documents, photos and videos for free online in the cloud eg via Google Docs[2] or DropBox [3]
  • Plan the route you need to take to pickup your children from school taking into account potential hazards (see Find maps of hazards in your area)
  • Plan the route to evacuation centres
  • Have a family communication plan. Here is a template you can use. [4]
  • Download emergency apps onto your mobile device
  • Signup for Twitter Alerts from public agencies and emergency organisations to receive public safety warnings direct to your mobile phone during a crisis (see below)

Emergency 2.0 Stay/Go Kit Checklist

  • Charger for mobile phone, notepad, laptop (a universal multi-device charger is easier to carry)
  • Car charger for mobile phone, notepad, laptop (again, look for a universal multi-device charger)
  • Solar powered universal multi-device charger (here's a link to a low cost example via [5])
  • Spare battery for your mobile device
  • Family Communication Plan (Here is a template you can use. [6])
  • Facebook/Twitter contact list

How to find realtime information


  • During an emergency, agencies, the media and the public use #hashtags to share information eg #flood #cyclone #earthquake #tornado
  • When a #hashtag is used, the whole world online can see the message
  • Following a hashtag gives you instant information on that emergency
  • Sometimes more than one #hashtag is used eg #tsunami, #japantsunami
  • Beware – information may not be correct or rumour (which spreads quickly online)
  • Watch for official messages from emergency agencies and the media
  • Download the Twitter app to your mobile phone to receive the messages wherever you are
  • To search for and view tweets in your area (or around the world - geocoded) you can go to Trendsmap. Instructions how to use Trendsmap can be found on the Mapping Tools page.

Twitter Alerts

Twitter Alert Example

Twitter Alerts are Tweets published by select public agencies and emergency organizations during a crisis or emergency that contain up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions. Alerts will appear highlighted on your home timeline and are instantly sent to your device as a mobile notification.

To sign up for Twitter Alerts:

  • Go to the Alerts setup page for the organization you wish to receive Alerts from (e.g.,
  • If you're not already logged in, sign in with your Twitter account; if you don't already have an account, you will be prompted to sign up for one.
  • If you wish to receive Alerts via text messages, enter or confirm your current phone number and activate Twitter text messaging to start receiving Alerts as text messages.
  • If you have the official Twitter for Android or iPhone app downloaded on your phone, you will start to receive Alerts as push notifications.

The other option is to click on the Twitter alert section on the Twitter profile of the agency. This will take you to a screen to signup for their alerts see example below:

Signing up from Agency Twitter page

List of participating organisations

To see which agencies offer Twitter alerts please visit this list [7]

For more information on Twitter Alerts please visit the Twitter Help Centre Twitter Alerts guide[8]


Emergency Agencies are using Facebook to issue warning and emergency information in real time.

  • 'like' the key agencies in your area to ensure you receive their messages.
  • download the Facebook smartphone app to receive the messages wherever you are.
  • download the Facebook Ipad app if you have an Ipad

Live broadcasting via Facebook

  • Emergency agencies are using Livestream to live broadcast media conferences on Facebook.
  • Checkout which of your agencies does it now.
  • If they do, there will be a link on their page eg this one for the Queensland Police Service Facebook Page.

Smartphone Apps

  • Look for and download smartphone apps that provide real time, location based warning messages.
  • Checkout the wiki Smartphone Apps Directory Smartphone Apps
  • Make sure you have GPS enabled on your mobile phone to ensure you receive messages for emergencies that may put you in danger wherever you are. eg Fires Near Me NSW Android Smartphone App

Real Time Community Maps

During an emergency maps are created online to provide realtime updates from emergency agencies and the community:

  • Search the web for "Google Crisis Response"

Examples of Maps created for Hurricane Irene August 2011 in the USA (This list is from Crisis Commons site [9]) Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder

NYC OASIS Map with Evac Zones + Shelters (more info)

ArcGIS Map of Evacuation Zones

NYC Hurrican Evacuation Zones + Shelters (1.5mb PDF)

NYS GIS Clearinghouse

American Red Cross Maps

More links and raw data at

Esri Latest News Map - Irene (Social Media Mashup)

Google Crisis Response Team Map

How to help share emergency information

If you are in an emergency and it is safe for you to do so, you can share the information publicly to warn others. You can also help by sharing emergency messages of official agencies. Examples include:


  • Send your warning message (add a hashtag) eg “Jones Bridge flooded #qldflood at 4.10pm”
  • Take a photo and send that with your tweet
  • Enable GPS on your phone so that your tweets and photos are 'geocoded'. This makes it easier for emergency agencies and the media to verify your information and pinpoint the location of the emergency. (see
  • Geocoded photos also help the media share the warnings as it enables them to quickly verify the image before circulating.
  • Take a video on your phone and send that with your sms/Tweet/Facebook message
  • State the time eg "Stuart road flooded #qldflood at 10.30am". This is important as your tweet may be retweeted hours later, by which time the road may then be reopened.
  • Retweets “Please RT”
    • You can instantly share emergency messages by retweeting
    • To quickly retweet to your followers, press the retweet button
    • To maximise the message getting out to the world, put “RT” in front of the message, then it will act like a hashtag and everyone can pick it up.
    • If the emergency agency message doesn't have a #hashtag add it yourself when you retweet the message
    • If the message doesn't have the time you need to add it before retweeting the message. Eg if it is "10.00am" and the tweet was sent 10 minutes ago, you need to state the time as "9.50am". This is important to ensure that emergency agencies, the media and the community are acting on accurate information.


  • 'Like' emergency agencies and key media
  • 'Like' emergency messages and comment on them
  • Click on 'Share' to post emergency agency messages on your own profile


  • Tweet links to Emergency services YoutTube videos
  • Share Emergency Services Youtube videos on Facebook (post on your profile)

Real Time Community Maps

During an emergency maps are created online to provide realtime updates from emergency agencies and the community:

  • Add your own information on what is happening in your local area to these maps
  • Look for reports near you
  • Use the report's comments section to connect with neighbours
  • Share community maps on your facebook page
  • Tweet links to community maps
  • Many community maps have a mobile app that will enable you to view and add information from your mobile phone eg "Jones Bridge closed"

Example Hurricane Irene Clean Up Efforts - For Ordinary People Helping Ordinary People "Disaster responders cannot be everywhere at the same time. The purpose of this site is to help ordinary people help themselves. Important: this site does not replace 911. Please use 911 in all emergencies. Report from your phone: check out how to download apps for iPhone and Android to submit and view reports."

Other References

Personal tools