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Social Media: connecting and sharing in a bushfire crisis

Understanding how social media facilitates information sharing in a crisis and increases community connectedness
Image: Photo by Fredrik Solli Wandem on Unsplash


Building on a pilot study[1] in early 2020 which investigated official communication from the ACT Emergency Services Agency and the NSW Rural Fire Service using Facebook during the Orroral Valley Bushfire emergency, this project aims to better understand social media use during emergencies to better inform public decision making. This study will survey social media users in the ACT and surrounding areas of NSW over the summer months to collect data around what kind of information they seek, where they go to look for it, and how they make decisions in a crisis.

This research aligns with the national research priorities for natural hazards emergency management and picks up on recommendations out of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements whose final report was tabled in Parliament in October 2020. Findings in the report highlight the need for improved communication with the public to ‘help them make informed decisions and take appropriate action’ (p 21).

As well as increasing understanding of the phenomenon of social media use in a crisis such as a bushfire, it will examine how social media is used by people to increase community connectedness and share information in a crisis. This work will inform emergency response agencies and others on best practice for use of social media in crises.

The expected outputs from this survey will be academic and industry journal articles, public seminars and articles on media platforms such as the Conversation. Consideration is also being given to sharing the findings and insights with organisations and the wider community through a public report and/or symposium.

If you are a social media user and would like to participate in our survey, please click here

[1] Atkinson, S., Kim, C., & Lee, J. (in press). ‘Facebook as an official communication channel in a crisis’, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol. 36 No. 1 January 2021

Research Team

Chief Investigators

Dr Jee Young Lee, Lecturer in Communication and Media

Ms Susan Atkinson, Master of Communication N&MRC Intern & Research Associate

Professor Kerry McCallum, Director, N&MRC, University of Canberra

Professor Sora Park, Associate Dean Research, FAD

Dr Chris Kim, N&MRC Alumni

Publications and Outputs

Atkinson, S., Kim, C. & Lee, J.Y.(2021). Facebook as an official communication channel in a crisis. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, January 2021 edition.