Australia Social Media: crisis-communication-and-bushfire-emergencies

If you are looking to download Social Media and PR Crisis Communication courseware for your workshops, it’s here

I’m watching 4 Corners program on the Marysville bushfires. It’s so upsetting that I’m tearing up. But more than that I’m cross – the poor warning systems is disgusting. Stuff like the sirens to call the firefighters aren’t used (they have pagers now) so the residents had no clanging bells, no sirens to warn them. Background radio had no siren or loud noises to call people to attention. And the websites for various emergency services, local radio station websites were overloaded with visitors so didn’t work. 

Singapore Civil Service & Social Media

I don’t want to go on too much about my workshops in Singapore with Ministry of Defence but one of the things we did look at was the Civil Defence warning system and how to use social media

singcivildefenceLearn Civil Defence

Civil Defence skills are not just for war time emergencies; they are equally useful in the fight against terrorism and applicable during peacetime emergencies. Our efforts in preparing you in case of a crisis can only be successful if everyone takes Civil Defence seriously and responds effectively should the worst happen.


We discussed was peer-to-peer emergency – not all the responsibility should be on a handful of official or volunteer representatives. Numbers can help. Another was distributed communications through social media – Twitter, widgets, RSS, whatever. 

Homeland Security Terror Alert Widget

The American’s have Homeland Security Preparedness and Response including colour coded widgets:

This might reach the iPod generation who only pick up a paper, turn on the telly, or listen to the radio of they are told to on Twitter or Facebook. Might. 

I went to the National Security website for the Australian Government and did a searchOpens in a new tab.. The page said there was a Community Information pageOpens in a new tab. but what I got

Service Unavailable – DNS failure

The server is temporarily unable to service your request. Please try again later.Reference #11.42626596.1240833402.554d572

is that just me or is everyone getting that error? Too bad if there was a blackout in Sydney.

Blackout and Community Warnings

Oops Sydney blackout exposes anti-terror network flaw

SYDNEY (AP) – A major blackout that wreaked havoc during rush hour in Australia’s largest city has exposed a flaw in the city’s terrorism warning system, the government acknowledged Tuesday.

A network of loudspeakers designed to alert people during emergencies has no battery backup, said New South Wales state Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan, which would render it useless if there is a total power failure…

… The loudspeakers were not activated in downtown Sydney during Monday’s chaotic two-hour power outage, which dimmed traffic lights, caused gridlock on the roads, trapped office workers in elevators and left 70,000 homes and businesses in darkness.

As someone who has done Disaster Recovery plans for global companies , this sort of lack of contingency and redundancy is surprising. But if we can’t handle a simple blackout – people were trying novel ways to notify each other not to drive down certain streets – what hope do we have when a devastating emergency hits? Like a bushfire? 

Swine Virus Social Media

Have a look at the Social Media and the Swine Virus on MashableOpens in a new tab.

Step 1. Check the WHO Disease Outbreak News Center (RSS feeds etc)

Step 2. Set up Google News Alerts

Step 3. Check the CDC Travel Notices for Outbreak Alerts

Step 4. Find Where the Flu has Spread with HealthMap

Stay Calm, Stay Informed

Ok, Mashable! Since that blog post this morning, things have moved on. 






CDC RSS widget







Twitter social network discussions on the Swine Virus.
Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame has put together a wiki for the Flu at Flu.WikiaOpens in a new tab.. Empowering the world to collaborate in collating and managing documentation and news and communications about the Swine Flu. 


Whether it’s a national emergency service with peer to peer tools, a Homeland Security style defcon widget, or community created communications around the Swine Flu, there are plenty of case studies to show that social media not only can have a role in crisis communication and emergency management but MUST have a role. Would anything have changed if a server was distributing information on the bushfires to widgets? Could it have handled the load better than a heavy oldfashioned website like they currently have? (see error above). We’re all talking about this –Jenni BeattieOpens in a new tab., Doug Chapman talking about mobile phone rechargers for bushfire victims, and so on-   I wonder if the Government is listening? The post-traumatic stress DVDs released for free at the Victorian bushfire forum seems so very 1990s. But then again, perhaps, so does our broadband infrastructure.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

8 thoughts on “Australia Social Media: crisis-communication-and-bushfire-emergencies

  1. Australia Social Media: crisis-communication-and-bushfire-emergencies
    If you are looking to download Social.. http://tinyurl.com/cguxb6

  2. They had residents and SES vehicles tramping the streets and phone calls WHILST the phones were operating – after that it was every man/woman to himself/herself – you didn’t get the whole story with that ABC telecast – only half

    1. it’s interesting that people are creating their own warning systems – like the bloggers with wikis for missing/lost in Mumbai bombings, give us the raw information and we’ll propagate it the best way we know how.

      and yeah one feed tagged with various keywords gives a central source?

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