As the worst bushfires seen for generations in New South Wales raged across the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and the Central Coast two years ago, people urgently needed fast, reliable information – and many turned to their phones to get it.
The NSW Rural Fire Service was prepared with a smartphone app, Fires Near Me, which was downloaded almost 200,000 times. At the height of the fires, its Facebook page was recording more than a million views an hour.
A social media campaign also helped the NSW Rural Fire Service Facebook community more than double from 120,000 to 280,000, while its Twitter reach jumped from 20,000 to 37,000 followers. Crucially, this helped to alert people to danger areas and places to avoid driving near.
If every emergency in Australia was handled in that way, Australians would be better able to cope with disasters we face, including fires, floods and storms.
But our new policy report shows that there’s still much more to do to consistently match the 2013 response to the NSW fires across the nation.
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