Social media use during the Brisbane floods
The Brisbane floods that occurred in January 2011 devastated the lives of many people throughout Brisbane, the Lockyer Valley and Toowoomba were some of the most harrowing images I’ve been directly affected by in my life. Thankfully, my home, business and family were all safe, however, seeing others struggle in the city and state that I love was difficult. Through my occupation I was directly involved in assisting people pre, during and post the flooding in Brisbane and it is an experience I will be forever grateful for.
Community, volunteering and social media in the Brisbane floods
There were a few things that impressed me immensely during the Brisbane floods. Firstly, the overwhelming outpouring of community support that lead to amazing volunteering efforts was incredible. To see so many people selflessly help others, to put aside differences and reach out their hands to help strangers is a beautiful thing. Secondly, to know that social media was one of the driving forces behind the communication from many of the major organisations during the flood was heartwarming to someone who believes in social media so deeply.
Brisbane City Council and Queensland Police Service social media use
Before the major floods hit Brisbane in January, social media was implemented by Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Police Service to start communicating urgent messages out to Brisbane residents. Most of these messages at that time were information residents of where to locate sandbags, where to find information on possible flood levels, how to prepare for evacuation should it be needed and so on. As the emergency continued to escalate, the messages mirrored the important issues in the community such as where to head for evacuation centres, how to care for pets and more. Throughout the flooding, Brisbane City Council continued to remain in touch with concerned residents and responded to them as often as possible, maintaining an informal, caring tone. QPS maintained their direct contact with the public in an informative manner and this was also appreciated by residents through these channels. Social media use became the focus for many mainstream TV shows and news channels with much of them focusing on how successful social media had been throughout.
Social media use in Brisbane floods for information, consolation and organisation
As the Brisbane floods passed through the city leaving behind a trail of destruction, organisations continued their intense use of social media to get messages out to flood victims. From that point forward the focus on recovery kicked in with Councillors calling for help via social media channels and volunteering groups being organised purely through Facebook and Twitter. Calls for materials, heavy machinery and extra volunteers became the main message for most organisations with residents continually checking Facebook and Twitter to see where their volunteering deployment was going to be. Social media moved from an information phase, through a consoling phase, to an action phase – all in one smooth easy flow.
Learning from social media use during the Brisbane floods
There is much to be learned about social media use during the Brisbane floods and no doubt there will be many retrospective looks at what occurred, including my own Masters thesis on the event, but overall it was a fantastic use of social media in a crisis or disaster situation. Without revealing too much at this stage from an internal perspective, there is a lot to be said about the inclusion of social media into large organisations crisis comms plans. Well done to everyone involved however and let’s see how it affects the acceptance of social media as an accepted communication tool for disaster management.