Last night, while transfixed by the flood footage from Queensland, I put out a Twitter call asking for pointers on the role of social media in disasters.
Thanks to DeeAnna Nagel, a psychotherapist from New Jersey and a founder of The Online Therapy Institute, for sending a pointer to two documents that may be useful for those involved in flooding response and recovery efforts.
1. Case studies of communications innovation in disaster response and recovery
This report, New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflict: The Role of Information and Social Networks, was released last year by the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership.
It covers the role of new communications technologies in early warning, building communities’ resilience, crowdsourcing crisis information, and recovery.
The report also profiles innovation in emergency communications, and points to new opportunities for governments, civil society, and individuals to benefit in times of crisis from our increasingly connected world, as well as the potential downsides of the new technologies, for eample in spreading inaccurate information.
The report notes the importance of bottom-up as well as top-down information: “…it is the people concerned who themselves have the most detailed and immediate information needed for humanitarian agencies to deliver an effective response.”
Communications advances present an opportunity for humanitarian organizations to harness modern technology to communicate more effectively with communities affected by disasters and to allow members of those communities to communicate with each other and with the outside world. People in affected communities can recover faster if they can access and use information. A look at the use of communications technology during disasters in recent years shows that while it has played a positive role, its full potential has not yet been realized.
The report gives some specific examples of information and communication technologies that may be useful for public health efforts in the wake of floods.
2. Ethical issues
The Online Therapy Institute has released this document, Ethical Framework for the Use of Technology in Disaster Mental Health, covering diverse ethical issues to be considered by health professionals.
If you know of other resources that may be useful for response and recovery efforts, please post their details below. Thanks.
Update: Just saw this on Twitter – a series of fact sheets from Qld Health, with practical health advice on dealing with storms and floods.
Update 12 Jan:
The overnight release of a report, Lessons from Haiti, was timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake, but it may also prove useful for flood recovery efforts. The report takes a critical look at the role of communications in the crisis and recommends ways to improve the effectiveness of media strategies in future disaster relief efforts. It reports on the use of interactive maps and SMS texting on a large scale to create dialogue between citizens and relief workers, to help guide search-and-rescue teams and find people in need of critical supplies. You can read more about it in this article, and the press release, both of which link to the full report. Thanks to @CraigSilverman for the link.
Meanwhile, anyone wanting tips on using social media in disasters could do worse than have a look at what the Queensland Police Service has been doing with Twitter, Facebook et al. They have been getting a good rap around the place. @QPSmedia
Interesting to see the ABC and The Courier Mail using social media channels to map the impact of the floods with interactive maps and Facebook pages.
It’s still quite tentative and small scale compared with US and UK news sites, where the use of real time blogs and user generated content are a major part of big news events.
Perhaps it reflects the fact that social media in Australia, while growing in popularity, is not seen as something to be used for serious news, either by consumers or media companies?
Or that news outlets are a couple years behind their international counterparts in adopting new tech?