Social Media and information communication during natural disaster events

  • Communication is of high importance during natural disaster events.  Communication among community members and authorities becomes vital for effective disaster management.  The rise of social media and various other location technologies (such as GPS and smartphones) has given rise to a new context for communication and information sharing during crisis events.  Individuals have used social media to share images of disaster impacts, coordinate relief efforts, send cries for help, and express support for family and friends and those impacted by the event.  Officials have begun embracing social media to issue disaster planning information, warnings, and status updates.  Recent disaster events in Australia have been characterised by an unprecedented use of social media, including the 2010/11 Queensland floods and the 2013 Tasmania bushfires.  This study examines two of these examples to assess the contribution of this new communication platform for disaster management.  Social media allows rapid, inexpensive collection and dissemination of geographic information from a diverse range of individuals often at the disaster location.  However, this data also raises important concerns relating to privacy, security, liability, and data accuracy and credibility.  Issues of spurious and duplicate postings, malicious content, and the need for rumour control and data verification have been reported in each disaster scenario.  A significant issue that needs to be addressed in advancing the application of social media in disaster management is the reliability of VGI data, and the implications of associated data uncertainty for decision making at all four stages of the disaster management process: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.


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