It's no longer in doubt. Social media as an emergency communication category belongs in crisis communication plans. If you're not monitoring or contributing to social media channels during an emergency, you're not in touch with all your publics and can easily get burned by what you aren't hearing from them. We have the recent flooding in Queensland, Australia, to cite on this.
"Twitter and Facebook were both used extensively throughout the floods –- by emergency services such as the Queensland police...and by tens of thousands of individual citizens to warn or to help one another," says Axel Bruns, associate professor of the Queensland University of Technology in a Times of India report.
"Twitter was more effective at spreading items of information widely and rapidly, but Facebook proved more useful in providing detail and coordinating activities," Bruns commented.
"Bruns added that the social media -- often criticised as dealing largely with trivial matters -- emerged as a full-fledged disaster response mechanism, and probably helped to save lives.
"You could see how quickly Queensland police an Brisbane Council adapted to what was happening on Twitter and Facebook.
"For example, the hash tag, #qldfloods, used on Twitter was spontaneously accepted as a primary source for information by public, police and emergency services," continues the Times of India report.
There's no question: Ways need to be found for staffing to monitor and contribute to social media during emergencies. This may not be a welcome insight for all crises managers, but it's clear as can be. Social media are now part of our communication environment and can only be excluded at your peril.
There's also a post on "The Role of Online and Social Media In Natural Disasters" on Social Media Today. And Patrice Cloutier, an emergency communicator in Ontario, Canada, has a trend-confirming blog post with a number of helpful links on the importance of social media to emergency management—"beyond any doubt."
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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