As a Brisbane girl, I lived through and experienced firsthand what a natural disaster could do to my local city. I mean literally firsthand, my friend’s house was flooded and we were required to become the dubbed “Mud Army” mentioned by the Brisbane Times. When I personally went through this natural disaster, I often used social media sites such as Facebook and Skype to message my friends and family to ask if they were okay and for me to assure them that I was alright. It was also incredibly handy to have the ability to talk to my friends over such a large distance, without having to endanger myself physically.
“Wheel of brisbane during 2011 flooding” by PMBO – Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
A quote from the Australia Government on the topic of Australian Emergency Management discusses how; “Recent disaster events, in Australia and internationally, have demonstrated the importance of social media, not only in delivering vital information to the community during emergency events, but also in strengthening relationships between emergency services and Australian communities. There is also an increasing awareness of the benefits of crowdsourcing, for example, to gain critical intelligence on emergencies and natural disasters.” This quote highlights how important the ability to share information to a large audience in such a short amount of time really is. I also agree with this quote as during my time within this natural disaster; I followed the Queensland Police and Bureau of Metrology on Facebook closely and often checked them for updates. I have continued this trend even after the flood as they often keep me updated on recent events. I like the flow of information which I receive from these pages and will often check the ABC Facebook page to increase my awareness of what is happening in the world.
In the area of communication, Facebook is still proving to be a popular choice due to it’s large amount of users which equal the population of China in size and it’s new tool called “Safety Check.” This tool has been specifically designed to let users know that their loved ones are safe during a natural disaster. If you are located within a certain area during a natural disaster, Facebook will send you a push notification to confirm whether you are safe and after conformation; will automatically send out a message to loved ones and friends to let them know. This is in a similar vain to “Twitter Alerts,” which as is stated by Gabriela Pena, “is a new way to get accurate and important information when you need it most.” and focuses on providing “accurate information from credible organizations during …natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible.”
During other natural Disasters, I have used social media to keep in touch with internal friends and family. Oddly enough when the topic of Natural Disasters was first mentioned I didn’t connect it to the ones I myself had lived through; but with the ones that my international friends or family had gone through. For example; when the large Bushfires hit California in 2014, I was extremely worried for my friend who lived in the local area. By using social Media, I was able to contact him quickly and easily without having to wait weeks or days for a response. I was able to use sites such as ‘Cal Fire’ Website with its RSS feed and Google map tracking to keep track of the fire without ever having to leave Australia.
This website follows the idea of Development of Opportunity mentioned by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government. The California Fire Department has various social media accounts which they often use to provide a large amount of information to the public. This “Information Management” is defined by the Australian Center as to “Collect, process, analyse and disseminate information to …. residents in a timely manner on the impact of the … event, what actions were needed and to use this information as intelligence for the disaster management group.” This idea was also highly effective and well used in the 2011 Brisbane Floods, to allow council to provide accurate information and increase response on all of the social media networks in connection to their page.
Overall the ability to use social media in a natural disaster is incredibly important; especially when you may not be able to physically see the person you are trying to contact. I have utilized social media in the past in such a situation and will continue to do so, if not increase it during such an event. Now that you have read my experience in relation to natural disasters, what are your own thoughts? Have you been in such an event? Or what would you do? Who would your first thoughts turn to? Have a lovely Easter