Tag Archives: community information

EMPA day 1 – an overview

Hi all,

Well it’s been a long and busy day here in Canberra for day one of the Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference for 2011. The day was a more casual approach, a workshop run in the ‘world cafe’ style. For those of you not familiar with world cafe (which was most of us!), the aim is to spilt into tables and have the level of discussion you have have with your friends if you opened that second bottle of wine. Quiet an interesting way of going about it, and one that I think worked very well.

The aim was to have varing degrees of emergency management experience represented on each table, along with a media representitive.

Firstly we were to discuss what common ground emergency media communicators and media staff have in common, then onto issues and differences.

Tables were rotating (not the tables, but the participants!) under the following topics:
Working to deadline
Gathering facts versus the information vaccum
Facts, rumours and misinformation
Emergency warnings versus editorial content
Text, tweet, blog…the citizen journalist
Access to spokespeople

Table leaders, if you will, summarised the discussions at the end of the alloted time, and notes were taken, with the aim of coming up with guidelines and principals that emergency media communicators and media staff can use as a guide for collaboration to build on. Over the course of the conference the principals will be drafted, with the aim of testing them out on Tuesday, the last day of the conference.

A reminder, you can follow the conference on Twitter, @EmergMediaConf, and by using the hashtag #EMPA2011.

-Nathan, @nathanmaddock

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Guest blog post: Steve Ahern – collaboration in the real world

As a broadcaster and broadcast trainer, who has been drawn into the sphere of emergency media only recently, I know there are many more people who know much more than me about it. Kristin’s blog puts her in a very special position to comment from the viewpoint of a practitioner and also a recent victim of disaster. I agree totally with her points about local information in the recovery stage, which is much less of a priority for many media than covering the disaster itself. There has been a lot of talk about the recovery aspect from the Australian community radio sector, who are the closest to the community and well placed to help in recovery. The most recent example is UGFM after the Victorian bushfires. I look forward to hearing more of Kristin’s story at the conference.

 My own viewpoint comes from the background of a former broadcast manager and now an international trainer, and I hope I can make a contribution in helping media understand emergency services and vice versa.

I have found that understanding the pressures on both sides helps media and emergency services staff work better together. Finding common ground and realising that both media and emergency services both aim to help people and save lives, is a good starting point. Honestly understanding the pressures faced by media – such as deadlines and highly competitive editors, and by emergency services – such as the constraints of law and agency protocols, is another good place to start in achieving better cooperation through finding common ground.

In a project initiated by the Attorney General’s Department, I developed a training program where these things are discussed, with the aim of creating a better working relationship between media and emergency services. I have now delivered the program in a few different places and so far so good in achieving better understandings on both sides. The project is just one small part in the many steps being taken by everyone to make sure the media and emergency services work well together for the public good in times of emergency.

I am writing this blog from Afghanistan. Here is an example of extreme conditions where some of the principles we will talk about at the upcoming conference are desperately needed to help rebuild the country. I will tell you more about it at the conference.

– Steve, www.steveahern.com.au

Steve Ahern is an international broadcast training consultant, broadcaster, author and media commentator, and will deliver a paper at the EMPA conference on collaboration between emergency services and the media.

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Guest blog post: Simon Kelly – Queensland Police Service social media use

The world has changed post floods and cyclones. The devastation was tragic and widespread throughout Queensland, with many communities still trying to recover.

The impact for the Queensland Police Service (QPS) Media and Public Affairs Branch has also been significant. Our use of social media during these crises has been well documented, but what happens next?

We established Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts last year to ensure we had an online community of followers before a disaster occurred. Little were we to know natural disasters of such magnitude were just around the corner, or that so many people would turn to our social media accounts for information in a crisis.

At the EMPA conference, I’ll give some brief insights into the incredibly rapid growth of our social media accounts during the crises, how we managed them and how we were able to improve our service to the media and community through the use of social media. I will also touch on where we go from here as the QPS looks to the future of managing large communities of online followers.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it – check us out on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, @QPSmedia.

-Simon Kelly

Simon is the Acting Deputy Director, Queensland Police Service Media and Public Affairs Branch and will deliver a paper at the EMPA conference on Queensland Police Service’s use of social media during the recent Queensland floods.

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Guest blog post: Dr Susan Nicholls – the resilient community and communications practice

Hi all, Susan here, on a grey, cool day in Canberra, very autumnal. I’m looking forward to the conference, meeting everyone and listening to what I know will be a stimulating and rewarding set of papers.

My paper is about resilience, and arises out of my connection with an organisation called Australia21 and my research interest in community recovery after disaster.

Resilience is intimately associated with good communication. Without resilience, communities are not likely to recover after disaster. In this context, governments are rightly concerned with the maintenance of a robust and fully functioning society that is able to withstand the shock of disaster, whether caused by nature or human intervention.

However, the problem for government agencies is how to communicate with people at risk (which, given recent extreme weather and geological events, is virtually the entire population) initially to encourage preparation and mitigation activities, and later to assist with recovery following disaster.

Communication strategies for both of these stages are difficult to implement well and can be politically risky. My contention in this paper is that communication intended to foster resilience means more than simply delivering information. This is true of all stages of the emergency process – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

My paper examines the components of resilience in the context of disaster, the role communication can play in promoting resilience, and proposes some pointers toward the use of communication to assist in building and maintaining resilient, adaptable communities.

See you at the conference!

– Dr  Susan Nicholls

Dr Susan Nicholls is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities, University of Canberra.

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Guest blog post: Kristin Hoskin – A conversation on Christchurch

It’s been a bumpy few months in Christchurch. I never would have thought six months ago that my summer would be dominated by three earthquake responses. But it has.
 
Working with a variety of government entities I’ve been in the fortunate position of being able to see first hand how communications has, and sometimes, hasn’t worked. As well as being involved in the response effort regarding building assessment, and then the review of other facets of response (education and infrastructure), I’ve been one of those on the receiving end of public information too.
 
Only this weekend I became very excited (as did some of my friends) when a chemical toilet arrived at my front door. And the highlight of last week was being able to turn the lights on throughout my house. I can hardly wait until the day when I don’t have to boil water before drinking it or brushing my teeth. As for going back to the gym, or being able to bus to work, that remains a distant dream.
 
When I was first invited to speak at the EMPA conference I was going to talk about all the great lessons learned and applied in September, but five months and two more noteworthy shakes later, the personal experiences associated with living with earthquakes offers a more pertinent message for those tasked with providing relevant public information to an affected community.
 
It isn’t the dramatic building collapses that people want to know about, it’s how to get the kids to school safely, when their workplace will likely be able to be accessed, and what supermarkets are open. People living in an affected area aren’t concerned with the statistics regarding how much of the city is damaged, they want to know when their neighbourhood is likely to be restored and whether they should leave town or tough it out for a few more days.
 
Overall Christchurch’s earthquake responses have been handled very well, with the media being an active partner in spreading information. Even so, there are still opportunities to build a greater and more needs-driven role for the media following emergencies – truly making the media a partner in community recovery, and not just an observer.

– Kristin Hoskin, @kristinhoskin, Linkedin, Kestrel New Zealand

Kristen Hoskin  will deliver a keynote at EMPA on her experiences with response and recovery for the Christchurch earthquakes.

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How we use social media during emergencies

 Here is a great little article and infographic from mashable.com on how we use social media during emergencies. The data is from a US Red Cross survey taken last year, but Victoria’s CFA get a mention! Follow them on Twitter: @CFA_Updates and @CFA_Connect.

-Nathan

Twitter: @nathanmaddock

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#qldfloods and #vicfloods

Craig Thomler is a federal public servant who works within the Department of Health and Aging. He has worked in various roles within the online industry since 1995, and as such has a wealth of knowledge on his blog. I heard him speak about gov2.0 late last year, and while he was preaching to the converted, he was a captivating speaker, offering various insights on web2.0 generally, as well as govt2.0 and social media communications. Well worth reading his blog and following him on Twitter.

In a roundabout way, that brings me to the purpose of this post, the Queensland floods, social media and particularly the Queensland Police Media Twitter account, @QPSmedia and their Facebook page. So much has been written about their efforts throughout #qldfloods, so visit Craig’s blog for his post on how Queensland Police demonstrated best practice emergency communications via social media. There are some links in there to some great articles about Queensland Police and their social media use in there too.

Sandeep (@DizzyDeep) remarked to me today that the Queensland floods will go down as the way to conduct emergency communications via social media, and I think he is right.

Victorian also suffered record flooding over January 2011, and Victoria Police also showed us another best practice example of how to engage in emergency communications via social media, with their Twitter account @VictoriaPolice providing updates and advice throughout the floods.

-Nathan
Twitter: @nathanmaddock

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Crowdsourcing information – the way forward?

Crisis and emergency mapping could be the way forward in emergency media and community information. In my experience it is a great way to give an overview of specific information relating to an emergency by placing data on a map. For example, if the emergency was a bushfire, information that could be displayed could include where the bushfire was sighted (flames), where smoke can be seen from, where spot fires are occurring, wind direction at specific locations, where firefighters are and where residents are leaving properties. This is by no means an extensive list; there could be many more details that could be included. By placing all this information on a map, the users has the ability to get a general overview of the situation, or focus on any specific area they’re interested in to gain more information.

Why is this the way forward? This information comes from the community on the ground. Perhaps the leading example of crisis data mapping currently is using the Ushahidi platform.

Ushahidi isn’t exactly new, it’s been around since the beginning of 2008, and was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout. A short, basic, rundown of it is as follows.

The platform can be downloaded onto your computer, and deployed from there. Reports are integrated into your platform from sources such as SMS, Twitter, email, submitting to a website or using a smartphone app. In a large scale emergency, teams of volunteers can be used to validate information that is posted on the map (they can call/email/SMS back to those who submit asking for more information if required). Posts appear on the map as either ‘verified’ or ‘unverified’.

But knowledge of what Ushahidi is, what it can do and how it can help in an emergency is growing, both here in Australia and overseas.

It has been utilised for many emergencies around the world, including, but not limited to, the Gulf of Mexico Oil spill, snow storms in Washington, New York and Boston in 2010, the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the Pakistan floods in 2010. Most recently, the violence in Egypt has been mapped, although it currently doesn’t appear to be live, which could be for a number of reasons.

Here in Australia, there have been a couple Ushahidi deployments in recent times. The ABC set up a flood crisis map for the Queensland floods. The map has now closed, but you are able to view all the information posted up to 31 January 2011. Over a thousand pieces of information from the public have been posted, ranging from reports of road closures, property damage, where evacuations are/have taken place, where the electricity is/was off and where volunteers are needed. This is all community information, from people on the ground, in the know, going out to the world, effectively saying ‘this is what’s going on’.

What are the implications of this on emergency services agencies in Australia? To them, I suspect Ushahidi is a whole new (and scary) way of information coming in. Here is a fantastic opportunity to grasp community to community and community to agency information and use it to inform the emergency response.

Ushahidi say ABC’s deployment of the platform was “one of the biggest Ushahidi deployments to date, both in terms of popularity” and how many different Ushahidi apps the ABC utilised. This shows the community in Australia has a thirst for on the ground information they can use. This has the potential to grow exponentially if a number of factors align, including but not limited to: emergency services recognising this as an avenue for information and providing appropriate resources, the community finding this information useful, volunteers and those with the appropriate knowledge to maintain the platform 24/7 during a deployment and Internet and phone coverage stability during an emergency. I’m sure there are more issues that would need resolving.

It’s important to remember crisis mapping is by no means a replacement, or the same as calling 000 to report an emergency. Nothing can replace this at the present moment.

I mentioned above that there has been a couple of Ushahidi deployments in Australia, and got carried away with the ABC’s Queensland floods. Whoops. There is also Bushfire Connect, run by a not-for-profit, which went live on 7 February 2011. More on that next time.

-Nathan
Twitter: @nathanmaddock

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