Social Media During National Crises

By February 9, 2009 Social Media No Comments

Last year while living in China I wrote about how the Chinese social media community assisted during the China earthquake by providing on the ground reporting, and even identifying resources for the rescuers (e.g. one girl posted that she had a field next to her house which could be used by helicopters, which she was taken up on, and emergency workers could get better access to the area).

After yesterdays horrific fires in Victoria it is interesting to see that the Australian online public has also embraced social media to pull together at this time.

On the weekend, as most people know by now, fires raged across Victoria, devastating tens of thousands of hectares of land, destroying homes and buildings, and worst of all, over 120 lives were lost (a figure expected to climb).

I still can’t believe the extent of the damage, which continues to be updated on the news every minute. There are horrible stories of people being burnt in their cars while trying to escape, fires running up hillsides in seconds to engulf unsuspecting households and the decimation of entire towns.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke on the weekend regarding the fires, and has since been updating his Twitter account, with pleas for donations of money, goods and blood.

CFA has also created their own Twitter account, with updates on the fires.

Facebook has 3 groups commemorating the firefighters or the victims, one of which, “Applaud the CFA heroes & empathise with the victims of the 09 Vic bushfires” already has over 7,5oo members.

Google has helped out by creating a special version of their maps to update people in real time on fire status, in order to take pressure off the Country Fire Association website.

Flickr, the photo sharing site, has also been updated regularly with photo’s of the fire from people in the area.

Social Media is playing an increasing role in reporting, and what it lacks in impartiality, it makes up for in the pure depth and breadth of opinions and communication methods.

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