Using social media to build communitydisaster resilienceBy Neil Dufty, Principal of Molino Stewart Pty Ltd.       ABSTRACT...
The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012In December 2009, the Council of Australian ...
The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012Social media                                ...
The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012As Keim and Noji (2011) state, “social media...
The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012structures that are closely aligned with how...
The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012Tibbitt, J., 2011, Social media, social capi...
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Using social media to build community disaster resilience article


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A paper published in the February 2012 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management. The paper investigates the ways in which social media can build disaster resilience in communities.

The paper initially establishes a disaster resilience-building framework based on current research and the Australian National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. The framework developed is based on three intersecting fields: Emergency Management, Disaster Risk Reduction and Community Development. The paper then analyses and identifies the uses of social media as education, communications and engagement (ECE) tools within the resilience-building strategic framework. It concludes by discussing the implications of this analysis for emergency managers.

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Using social media to build community disaster resilience article

  1. 1. Using social media to build communitydisaster resilienceBy Neil Dufty, Principal of Molino Stewart Pty Ltd. ABSTRACT Several emergency management researchers Building community and practitioners have suggested that the use disaster resilience of social media can help build community The concept of resilience has been in the disaster disaster resilience. This article develops a management literature since the 1980s (Wildavsky, strategic framework for the social aspects 1988) but has come into vogue as an overriding goal of disaster resilience-building based on the in the past ten years. This has been mainly due to Australian National Strategy for Disaster its importance as a factor in achieving sustainability Resilience. It then investigates the current and (Dovers, 2004), its role as a strategy in climate change adaptation and as a perceived requirement for potential use of social media related to the communities in the wake of disasters such as 9/11 and strategic framework. The article concludes Hurricane Katrina (Boin, Comfort and Demchak, 2010). by discussing the possible implications for emergency managers of using social media Like the term ‘sustainability’, there are a multitude of definitions of ‘disaster resilience’. The original notion of within such a framework. resilience, from the Latin word resilio, means to ‘jump back’ or ‘bounce back’. According to de Bruijne, Boin and van Eeten (2010), “In the past decades, research on resilience has been conducted at various levels of Introduction analysis – the individual level, the group level, and the ‘Social media’ and ‘resilience’ are two terms that organizational or community level – in a wide variety of now regularly appear in the emergency management disciplines including psychology, ecology, organization literature. Several researchers in the emergency and management sciences, group/team literature management field believe that using social media will and safety management.” Several researchers (e.g. help build community disaster resilience. For example, Longstaff, 2005) have made an interdisciplinary effort White (2012, p. 187) states that “community resilience to further refine the concept of resilience in relation should include a grassroots effort where social media to disaster management. However, a dilemma for is utilized in a number of ways to support the safety researchers has been whether disaster resilience of the community.” Dufty (2011) promotes the use should involve the ability of a community to ‘bounce of social media by emergency agencies to assist in back’ (i.e. resume its normal functioning) as per the “learning for disaster resilient communities”. original notion, or to ‘bounce forward’ after a disaster (Manyena et al, 2011). Some researchers such as Although these and other researchers and Paton (2006a) opt for the latter notion arguing that practitioners provide some mechanisms and practical the ‘bounce back’ idea neither captures the changed tips in the use of social media to build community reality after a disaster, nor encapsulates the new disaster resilience, further investigation is required to possibilities wrought by a disaster. review the full potential of the relationship. Although the academic debate continues on what Using current definitions of community resilience precisely disaster resilience is (and its relationship this article identifies a strategic framework for to ‘vulnerability’), governments around the world communities, emergency managers and other have developed strategic plans that aim to guide organisations to help build disaster resilience. It then communities and emergency agencies towards explores ways in which social media can be effectively achieving it. For example, the Hyogo Framework for used to support this framework. The article concludes Action was an outcome of the 2005 World Conference by discussing issues faced by emergency agencies on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Japan. One of its in their use of social media, particularly in relation five specific priorities for action was “building a culture to their education, communications and engagement of safety and resilience”. (ECE) activities. 40
  2. 2. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012In December 2009, the Council of Australian The distinction between disaster risk reduction andGovernments (COAG) agreed to adopt a whole- emergency management is demonstrated practicallyof-nation, resilience-based approach to disaster in several parts of Australia through the demarcationmanagement, which recognises that a national, of responsibility and activity. For example, incoordinated and cooperative effort is needed to NSW, floodplain risk management is primarily theenhance Australia’s capacity to prepare for, withstand responsibility of local councils, with the NSW Stateand recover from disasters. The National Emergency Emergency Service responsible for flood preparednessManagement Committee subsequently developed the and response.National Strategy for Disaster Resilience which wasadopted by COAG on 13 February 2011. Educationally, the distinction between risk mitigation and emergency management is also apposite. AThe purpose of the Strategy is to “provide high- common fallacy in the design of disaster-relatedlevel guidance on disaster management to federal, community ECE programs is that risk awareness willstate, territory and local governments, business and directly lead to preparedness and then appropriatecommunity leaders and the not-for-profit sector. response and recovery behaviours. Research (e.g.While the Strategy focuses on priority areas to build Boura, 1998; Rhodes, 2011) has shown that thisdisaster resilient communities across Australia, it linear logic process does not exist, and that ‘criticalalso recognises that disaster resilience is a shared awareness’ is a part of several psychologicalresponsibility for individuals, households, businesses processes determining preparedness (Paton, McClureand communities, as well as for governments. The and Burgelt, 2006). Thus ECE activities should targetStrategy is the first step in a long-term, evolving risk awareness and preparedness learning outcomesprocess to deliver sustained behavioural change separately.and enduring partnerships” (Attorney-General’s Why include ‘community development’ in theDepartment website: resilience-building mix? Several researchers (e.g. Paton, 2006b) believe that risk reduction andThe Strategy (COAG, 2011) identifies seven groups emergency management by themselves will notof actions to build community disaster resilience necessarily build disaster resilience in Australia. They feel that social interactions, competencies and 1. Leading change and coordinating effort interactions improved by ‘community development’ 2. Understanding risks activities form a critical part of the resilience-building triumvirate. 3. Communicating with and educating people about risks A relationship between the three disaster resilience- 4. Partnering with those who effect change building fields is shown using the simple Venn diagram 5. Empowering individuals and communities to in Figure 1. Depending on the resilience ‘profile’ of a exercise choice and take responsibility community, the importance of each field can be larger and smaller, and their linkages more critical (and thus 6. Reducing risks in the built environment not necessarily equal as shown in Figure 1). 7. Supporting capabilities for disaster resilience.The following three disaster resilience-building Figure 1. Interrelationship of the three fields required‘fields’ were identified after analysing and further to build community disaster resilience.categorising the seven actions, and from otherresearch (e.g. Paton, 2006b): 1. Disaster risk reduction 2. Emergency management 3. Community development EmergencyOne could argue the value of this division. For instance, managementwhy separate ‘disaster risk reduction’ from ‘emergencymanagement’ when Prevention, Preparedness,Response and Recovery (PPRR) in emergencymanagement could encapsulate both? One reason isthat it distinguishes hazard risk mitigation (prevention) Disaster risk Communityactivities from preparedness activities, the boundariesof which are which are sometimes confused. According reduction developmentto the Topping (2011), “Mitigation is distinguished frompreparedness by its emphasis on creating long-termresilience through permanent modification of physicaland other circumstances which create risk andvulnerability. Yet mitigation is widely misunderstood,often confused with preparedness - and not just bynews media and the general public.” 41
  3. 3. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012Social media in unmanaged form, even when effective disaster risk reduction measures are in place, and for whichThe term ‘social media’ refers to internet-based emergency response and recovery capacities must beapplications that enable people to communicate and maintained”. Social media can help people understandshare resources and information. Examples of social the residual disaster risks in their communities, andmedia include blogs, discussion forums, chat rooms, what is being done (structural and non-structuralwikis, YouTube, Channels, LinkedIn, Facebook, methods) to manage this risk. Several organisationsand Twitter. around the world are using social media to engageThe use of social media in recent disasters (e.g. with communities of interest to discuss ways to reduce2010 Haiti earthquake, 2011 Queensland floods, 2011 disaster risk (e.g. Alabama Department of HomelandJapan earthquake) around the world has been well Security, 2010).documented (Palen, Vieweg, Liu, & Hughes, 2009; Liu, A main goal of emergency management is to ensureIacucci, & Meier, 2010; Queensland Police Service, community safety though ‘shared responsibility’. The2011; White, 2012). Some researchers such as Yates concept of ‘shared responsibility’ is explained in theand Paquette (2010) even suggest that “disaster final report of the Royal Commission into the 2009response may be the ideal environment for ‘proving Victorian Bushfires in Australia. The Commissionthe worth’ of social media as a serious knowledge uses the expression ‘shared responsibility’ to meanmanagement platform”. increased responsibility for all. It recommends thatReturning to the three fields identified above (see state agencies and municipal councils adopt increasedFigure1), social media have already demonstrated or improved protective, emergency management andtheir use in the emergency management field but have advisory roles. In turn, communities, individuals andpotential in the two other fields, and thus in helping households need to take greater responsibility for theirbuild community disaster resilience. This is because own safety and to act on advice and other cues given tosocial media can easily form ‘communities of practice’ them before and on the day of a bushfire.across the three resilience-building fields before,during and after an event. According to Wenger (2006), According to the Royal Commission report, “Shared“communities of practice are groups of people who responsibility does not mean equal responsibility……share a concern or passion for something they do and there are some areas in which the government shouldlearn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. assume greater responsibility than the community. For example, in most instances fire authorities willBy further developing the disaster resilience-building be more capable than individuals when it comes toframework (see Figure 2), the value of social media identifying risks associated with a fire; the governmentcan be explored. Figure 2 shows the three fields linked should therefore assume greater responsibility forto arguably their main ‘social’ goals. working to minimise those risks”.The main goal of the disaster risk reduction field is The Australian Government stresses in its Nationalidentified here as ‘minimising residual risk’. According Strategy for Disaster Resilience (COAG, 2011) thatto the United Nations International Strategy for “achieving disaster resilience is not solely the domainDisaster Reduction ( of emergency management agencies; rather, it is aterminology), residual risk is “The risk that remains shared responsibility across the whole of society”. Figure 2. Goals and ways that social media can help build community disaster resilience. Disaster risk reduction Emergency management Community development • Goal: Minimisation of • Goal: Safe communities • Goal: Formation of social residual risk through shared responsibility capital for disasters • Informing others of disaster • Providing emergency • Increasing and improving risks intelligence through social networks , leadership crowdsourcing and support systems • Discussing and planning ways to minimise risk • Helping people prepare for • Providing support to people disasters during and after a disaster • Coordinating and managing tasks • Communicating warnings to • Conducting post-event others learning to improve • Conducting post-event learning to improve • Coordinating community response and recovery • Conducting post-event learning to improve42
  4. 4. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012As Keim and Noji (2011) state, “social media rely on • Communicating warnings and other information topeer-to-peer (P2P) networks that are collaborative, communities during a disasterdecentralised and community driven. They transform • Providing support to people during and after apeople from content consumers into content disasterproducers”. Thus, by their very nature, social mediacan build emergency management communities • Coordinating community response and recoveryof interest that share responsibilities. They can be • Conducting post-event learning to further buildaligned to a particular disaster or a community that is resilience (this is critical for impacted communitiesat risk of disaster. They can also consist of emergency to ‘bounce forward’).managers including first responders (e.g. Social Media4 Emergency Management at or#smem on Twitter). Implications for emergency managersA main goal for community development, particularly Although it appears that social media can helprelated to disaster resilience, is the ‘formation of build the social aspects of disaster resilience, thesocial capital’. Social capital broadly refers to the framework for this interrelationship promoted aboveresources accumulated through the relationships will have implications for emergency managers.among people (Coleman, 1988). “There is consensusthat social capital consists of resources embedded Firstly, the framework calls for emergency agenciesin social networks and social structure, which can be to liaise not only with risk managers but with thosemobilized by actors” (Dynes, 2002). The importance of involved in community development such as socialsocial capital in disasters has been well documented. scientists, psychologists and community planners.For example, according to Schellong (2007), during and Although these experts are usually involved in disasterafter a disaster “social systems continue to operate recovery actions, this framework encourages liaisonwhile new ones emerge because they have greatest and planning by all parties involved in the threeknowledge of the community, and because they need disaster resilience-building fields before, during andto initiate recovery themselves as many of their needs after an event.will not be met by outside agencies”. Haines, Hurlbertand Beggs (1996) found that disaster victims and their Secondly, emergency agencies will need to resolve thesocial networks mostly become resources. degree to which they will embrace social media as part of their ECE activities. This will require review of theSeveral researchers (e.g. Antoci et al, 2011; Ellison et effectiveness and appropriateness of ‘traditional’ ECEal, 2007) have assessed the value of social media in activities (e.g. media, website, community meetings)forming social capital. They found that social media in comparison with social media opportunities to buildhave made it simpler to interact with others without disaster resilience.the limitations geography and lack of time. “Noting thatcontact through social media is asynchronous, they Thirdly, as promoted in this paper, social mediareference studies which show that such interactions provides ‘power to the people’ in emergencyare not necessarily of inferior quality compared to management through P2P interactions. A paradigmsimultaneous, face-to-face, interactions” (Tibbitt, shift from being the ‘combat agency’ telling others to2011). In addition to the preservation and possible one of community engagement and knowledge sharingimprovement of existing ties, interaction through may be required to fully obtain the benefits of socialsocial media can foster the creation of new relations. media through shared responsibility.It therefore can encourage and sustain learning Fourthly, the perception of ‘community’ changescommunities (Tibbitt, 2011) and, in this case, ‘disaster through social media use from a geographic localityresilience learning communities’. to communities of interest and, ideally, disasterBased on the disaster resilience-building framework resilience communities of learning. This may meanpreviously discussed in this paper, there are several the re-focussing of ECE activities using social media toways (see Figure 2) to use social media to build not only the geographic community at risk but also thecommunity disaster resilience. These include: broader community of interest.• Developing social capital (e.g. networks, leadership, Lastly, there are potential issues of trust and support systems) for disaster resilience learning misinformation that will need to be managed by communities emergency agencies when using the more ‘open’ social media. Bruce Lindsay, US Congressional Research• Informing others of the disaster risks in their Service analyst warns that “malicious use of social community, discussing and planning what is being media during an incident can range from mischievous done to manage the risks and what they can do pranks to acts of terrorism” (Lindsay, 2011).• Engaging with others to help them prepare for a In conclusion, it appears that social media could disaster greatly assist in the building of disaster resilience,• Providing intelligence through ‘crowdsourcing’ to particularly based on the strategic framework others (including emergency managers) before, promoted in this paper. As Yates and Paquette (2010) during and after a disaster suggest, “in short, it seems that social media are inherently flexible yet have the robust knowledge 43
  5. 5. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012structures that are closely aligned with how knowledge Keim, M.E., & Noji, E., 2011, Emergent use of social media:is gathered, shared and employed in a disaster a new age of opportunity for disaster resilience, Americanresponse”. The same could be said for other aspects Journal of Disaster Medicine, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.47-54.of emergency management, as well as for disaster-related risk reduction and community development. Lindsay, B.R., 2011, Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations, US Congressional Research Service Report on Homeland Security, No. 7-5700.ReferencesAlabama Department of Homeland Security, 2010, Virtual Liu, S.B., Iacucci, A.A., & Meier, P., 2010, Ushahidi in HaitiAlabama Project Fact Sheet, available at http://dhs.alabama. and Chile: Next generation crisis mapping, in Proceedings ofgov/virtual_alabama/pdf_files/viral_fact_sheet.pdf. the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.Antoci, A., Sabatini, F., & Sodini, M., 2011, Bowling alone Longstaff, P.H., 2005, Security, resilience andbut tweeting together: the evolution of human interaction communication in unpredictable environments such asin the social networking era, Sapienza University of Rome, terrorism, natural disasters and complex technology,mimeo. Program on Information Resources Policy, Centre for Information Policy Research, Harvard University. Available atBoin, A., Comfort, L.K., & Demchak, C.C., 2010, The Rise http://www.pirp.harvard.eduof Resilience, in Comfort, L.K., Boin, A., & Demchak, C.C.(eds.), Designing Resilience: preparing for extreme events, Manyena, S.B., O’Brien, G., O’Keefe, P., & Rose, J., 2011,University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh. Disaster resilience; a bounce back or a bounce forward ability?, Local Environment, Vol. 16, No. 5, pp.417-424.Boura, J., 1998, Community Fireguard: Creating partnershipswith the community to minimise the impact of bushfire, Palen.L., Vieweg, S., Liu, S.B., & Hughes, A.L., 2009,Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol. 13, pp. Crisis in a networked world; features of computer-mediated59-64. communication in April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech event, Social Science Computing Review, Sage, pp.467-480.COAG, 2011, National Strategy for Disaster Resilience:Building our nation’s resilience to disasters, Australian Paton, D., 2006a, Disaster resilience: building capacity toGovernment, 13 February. co-exist with natural hazards and their consequences, in Paton, D., & Johnston, D., (eds.), Disaster Resilience: AnColeman, J.S., 1988, Social Capital in the Creation of Integrated Approach, Charles C Thomas Publishers Ltd,Human Capital, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 94 Springfield.(supplement), pp. 95-120. Paton, D., 2006b, Disaster resilience: integrating individual,de Bruijne, M., A., Boin, A., & van Eeten, M., 2010, community, institutional, and environmental perspectives,Resilience: Exploring the Concept and its Meanings, in in Paton, D., & Johnston, D., (eds.), Disaster Resilience: AnComfort, L.K., Boin, A., & Demchak, C.C. (eds.), Designing Integrated Approach, Charles C Thomas Publishers Ltd,Resilience: preparing for extreme events, University of Springfield.Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh. Paton, D., McClure, J., & Burgelt, P.T., 2006, NaturalDovers, S., 2004, Sustainability and Disaster Management, hazard resilience: the role of individual and householdAustralian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol. 19, pp. preparedness, in Paton, D., & Johnston, D., (eds.), Disaster21-25. Resilience: An Integrated Approach, Charles C Thomas Publishers Ltd, Springfield.Dufty, N., 2011, Using Social Media for Natural DisasterResilience, Kindle ebook, available at Queensland Police Service, 2011, Disaster management and social media – a case study, Media and Public AffairsDynes, R.R., 2002, The importance of Social Capital in Branch, Queensland Police Service.Disaster Response, Preliminary Paper No. 327, University ofDelaware, Disaster Research Centre. Rhodes, A., 2011, Opinion: Ready or not? Can community education increase householder preparedness for bushfire?,Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C., 2007, The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Volume 26,benefits of Facebook friends: Social capital and college No. 2, pp. 6-10.students use of online social network sites, Journal ofComputer-Mediated Communication, Vol.12, pp. 1143-1168. Royal Commission into the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, 2010, Final Report, State Government of Victoria, Australia.Haines, V.A., Hurlbert, J.S., & Beggs, J.J., 1996,Exploring the Determinants of Support Provision: Provider Schellong, A., 2007, Increasing Social Capital for DisasterCharacteristics, Personal Networks, Community Contexts, Response through Social Networking Services (SNS) inand Supporting Following Life Events, Journal of Health and Japanese Local Governments, National Centre for DigitalSocial Behavior, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp.252-264. Government No. 07-005.44
  6. 6. The Australian Journal of Emergency Management Volume 27, No. 1, February 2012Tibbitt, J., 2011, Social media, social capital and learningcommunities, blog published on PASCAL International About the authorObservatory website Neil Dufty is a Principal of Molino Stewart Pty Ltd. He has extensive experience in the design,Topping, K., 2011, Strengthening resilience through implementation and review of disaster-relatedmitigation planning, Natural Hazards Observer, Vol. 36, No.2. community education, communications and engagement policies and programs across Australia.Wenger, E., 2006, Communities of practice: a brief Over the past two years he has conducted extensiveintroduction, available at research into ways to build community disaster resilience including through the use of social media.White, C.M., 2012, Social Media, Crisis Communication, andEmergency Management: Leveraging Web2.0 Technology,CRC Press, Boca Raton.Wildavsky, A.B., 1988, Searching for safety, Transaction,New Brunswick.Yates, D., & Paquette, S., 2011, Emergency knowledgemanagement and social media technologies: A case studyof the 2010 Haitian earthquake, International Journal ofInformation Management, vol. 31, pp. 6-13. National Awards for Local Government 2012 The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) sponsors the Land use planning – Addressing disaster risk and enhancing resilience award in the 2012 National Awards for Local Government. The National Strategy for Disaster This award recognises councils Local Government, Arts and Sport Resilience makes the case that work to better website at for reducing risk in the built serve their communities by local/awards environment. Comprehensive strengthening disaster resilience consideration of hazards and through innovative risk-based land AGD also hosts a Risk-based risk in the planning system use planning and is open to all Land Use Planning course needs sound understanding councils – large, small, capital city at its Australian Emergency of the hazards and risks. and non-capital city. Management Institute. Details of An understanding of risk Entries opened on 1 December the course are available at www. management principles and 2011 and will close on 17 approaches to strategic planning February 2012. For more details and development controls that please visit the National Awards will adequately mitigate identified for Local Government on the risks is also required. Department of Regional Australia, Erratum: In our Volume 26, issue 3, July 2011 edition we published a preliminary version of Christianson, McGee and Jardine’s paper entitled Canadian wildfire communication strategies. The following link now has the correct restructured version: Volume-24-Issue-3-July.aspx 45