1. Very much enjoyed this article. Lot of people having trouble catching up to 2013 – but social media is the new medium that people are using to communicate in real-time. You mentioned Facebook, but there was a wealth of information published on Twitter, and NSWRFS led the way, and encouraged users to share their messages by retweeting them. NSWRFS set a high standard on both their Twitter account and their Facebook page. Having pages run by volunteers seems to be the norm in a crisis nowadays. Many, many people all contribute, and become a community with a single purpose. It’s inspiring to see. I always said that 2013 was the year of social media.

  2. Ms Papworth, I have no sympathy whatsoever for the ‘kid’ running an ’emergency communications’ fan page whom you think was bullied. While the ‘kid’ may be well-meaning, second-hand information distributors can introduce confusion through inaccuracies. Confusion in fast-changing emergency situations can be life threatening- and I don’t think you quite understand that.

    Fire services go to tremendous effort and expense to get citizens to turn to single-sourced authoritative information in emergency situations. NSW RFS have a very well-managed Twitter account which answers to the RFS chain of command. The ‘Fires Near Me’ phone app mirrors the information on the RFS Current Incidents web page. ABC 702 is *the* designated emergency information radio station and for good reason. There’s often an RFS Public Information Officer in their studio during bushfires- if a PLO is not in the studios, s/he will be on a telephone hotline to the 702 control studio.

    I am a volunteer firefighter in the Blue Mountains. Among the very FIRST things discussed in firefighter training is to avoid non-authoritative information sources. Second-hand information may be distorted, untimely or otherwise unreliable. It’s pivotally important for all on a fireground- citizens and firefighters- to be working from the same authoritative information.

    Second-hand information distributors are not only unnecessary but can be very dangerous!

    1. “Second-hand information may be distorted, untimely or otherwise unreliable.”
      As a resident of the Blue Mountains I have a few questions about how I’m allowed to use social media with my friends and neighbours:

      Can you confirm that eyewitness accounts from friends and neighbours posted to Twitter and then make their way to ABC & news are unreliable? Even the photos?

      Can you confirm for me that you don’t want me reposting, sharing or retweeting information that comes through RFS social media channel. That it’s just a broadcast channel? is it an actual crime to retweet RFS stuff or will I just get trolled?

      Also: That when our friend posted that “Dickos home was in danger and that there was nothing on news or emergency services and should he go or stay?”, the correct answer is “I can’t answer that as I did see advice on their social media site but I’m not allowed to forward it to neighbours”? Or when this kid asks if his house is still there, we shouldn’t answer on Twitter as neighbours as we are not an authoritative source? https://twitter.com/bradleystretto1/status/390750226602270720 Did ABC 702 announce his house on the radio and did he get his Wii?

      Can you also confirm for me that when the Commissioner said “contact neighbours and check on them” he meant ONLY physically? Leave the house and kids and cats and go (in our case down the mountain quite a way) and manually check on the neighbours. Or can we use the phone (assuming power and phones are on)?

      When Marcus couldn’t find out if the road was open and asked neighbours if they knew (media & emergency services about 20 mins behind at this stage due to their verification checks) and they told him “too dangerous, don’t try” that was wrong? Better he go and find out for himself and get into danger than pass on possibly incorrect information?

      That when the Commissioner said “we may not come knocking on your door to tell you the fire is here, there may not be enough time to get the word out” that if a neighbour says “the fires here!” we SHOULD wait for that knock? Or can we use use social media just that once? Is checking Facebook and Twitter during a crisis a crime and what should the penalty be? Is using traditional media, paid to attend the scene and take our stories ok but unpaid stories by the victims is wrong (unless they give it to paid-for media)?

      Also, can you tell me how I stop people from sharing their photos, their eyewitness accounts and their fears and their “stay safe” supportive comments? Cos I actually have no idea and I found them really helpful but totally understand if you would rather my friends and family wait to find out I’m safe when the ABC 702 announces my name on radio or the RFS rings them personally.

      For everyone else out there: I ‘d take the misinformation (as the community quickly corrects it anyway) over a known 20 minute map/app update delay. But I’ll allow those people with no Communications experience, no (online) community experience and no clue of what it was like to be here in the Blue Mountains during the NSW fires to tell you what you can and can’t talk to friends and family and neighbours about during a bushfire. The only thing: I just ask that you not insult people who lost their homes during the bushfires because they asked their friends and neighbours using Facebook and Twitter for help. That’s just plain hurtful.

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