Social media may just save your life when disaster strikes. Stay up to date with real-time information and alerts.
Social media may just save your life when disaster strikes. Stay up to date with real-time information and alerts. Contributed

Why social media may save your life during a crisis

SOCIAL media has never played more of an important role than it does when disaster strikes.

Information can be relayed straight from emergency services, politicians, councils and the media to consumers in a matter of seconds, making it one of the most efficient ways of communication the world has ever seen.

With most Australians owning a smartphone or tablet, social media's ability to reach the masses quickly makes it a powerful crisis communication tool, and Queensland saw the benefits of this during recent natural disasters.

Queensland University of Technology researcher Judith Newton, who has worked on projects analysing the use of social media during the 2011 Brisbane floods, said social media was used throughout every stage of the disaster, from initial alerts, to relaying information during its peak and during clean-up efforts.

Follow these social media pages for the latest information during disasters.

"Social media has also enabled the community to become active participants in crisis communication such as providing user- generated content (for example, updates, photographs) to help emergency management organisations with their intelligence-gathering efforts," Ms Newton said.

Her research revealed Facebook as the top social media platform used by the Australian Emergency Management sector during the 2011 floods, with 94.7% of activity flowing through that platform, 69.1% through Twitter, 61.8% through YouTube and 38.8% via Instagram.

A report by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Crisis Communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods, focused on the use of Twitter during the 2011 floods.

It revealed more than 35,000 tweets containing the hashtag #qldfloods were sent during January 10-16 of that year, 11,600 of them on January 12 alone, which was the height of the flooding in Brisbane.

Over that week, more than 15,500 Twitter users participated in #qldfloods.

The most visible account on #qldfloods was the Queensland Police Media Unit which played the leading role in disseminating timely and relevant information to the public.

Ms Newton said it was the 2011 disaster that emphasised the benefits of social media during times of crisis and pushed emergency departments to widen their social media presence.

"It was this disaster, and other significant Australian and international natural disasters in 2011 and 2012, that were the catalysts that encouraged the Australian emergency management sector to incorporate social media into their crisis communications strategies," she said.

If disaster strikes near you this storm season, ensure you are kept up to date by following the emergency services social media accounts and your local council.

Twitter action during the 2011 Queensland floods:

  • More than 35,000 tweets containing #qldfloods were sent between January 10-16.
  • 11,600 of them were on January 12
  • More than one in every five tweets with #qldfloods had an image.
  • Some of the most widely re-tweeted posts were QPS's tweets, tackling rumours and misinformation about the floods.