Social Media's Role in Natural Disasters

Australian emergency officials, fresh off responding to widespread flooding in Queensland, will be discussing new and emerging technologies and how they “could be harnessed to assist with preparedness, response and recovery to natural disasters, with an initial focus on floods,” according to this article in

Incorporating use of social media tools to disseminate information and squelch rumors in the midst of an emergency will be a major discussion point for the country’s emergency management ministries going forward, the article says.

While those tools, especially Twitter, were used widely during the recent floods, officials offered some caveats on their effectiveness during natural disasters: “These technologies can only supplement emergency warning and information that is delivered primarily through radio and television, and also through a number of other mechanisms,” the article says.

One official is quoted saying that although Twitter was used as a substitute information source by many, it was essential that government websites stay up and running during disasters to correct many Twitter feed rumors. “Keeping sites up and running meant that those rumours were killed off quickly. It’s interesting to see how the two interact and it shows the need for an authoritative source of information people can go and check,” the article says.

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