Australian Security Magazine Jun/Jul 2014

Page 27


Social media and disaster information: Lessons from New Zealand

Image - Wellington, New Zealand

GeoNet is New Zealand’s Geological Hazard monitoring service, funded by the New Zealand Earthquake Commission (EQC), and designed, built and operated by GNS Science; hundreds of sensors all over the country are used to monitor earthquakes, tsunami, landslides and volcanoes. Due to New Zealand’s position across two tectonic plates we have no shortage of these events and locate, for example, more than 20,000 earthquakes a year. By Sara Page


eoNet’s journey into social media started off slowly and a bit one-sided, Twitter and Facebook accounts were set up and posts were made via automatic RSS feeds of our recent earthquakes and news. There was a bit of interaction following the 2010 Chilean tsunami, where members of the public were asked to post feedback and photos, unfortunately the page was left to its own devices after this. Following the devastating earthquakes in Canterbury 2010/2011, GeoNet quickly became a household name, from under 400 page ‘likes’ this quickly grew to 4,000 and continued with each large earthquake, and the page ‘likes’ are now more than 40,000. It was during this that we discovered the importance of social media to get information out to large numbers of people quickly.

Shortly after the first earthquake in Christchurch, the public noticed the GeoNet Facebook page and began to ask questions and share their fears and concerns, and the page ‘likes’ quickly rose. It was around this time that I asked to take on the page and began to answer the questions and post information, pictures etc. Looking back, with what I know now, that was a crazy decision! For one person to look after a site that had thousands of followers and hundreds of comments and questions every day, it was a massive undertaking. Back at this time, GeoNet had duty officers on call who would manually locate the earthquakes and it would take around 20 minutes for the detailed event information to get posted, social media allowed us to post comments such as ‘Latest shake in ChCh will be posted shortly – looks to

Australian Security Magazine | 25

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