The new VicEmergency app, released yesterday, provides warning and notifications for a variety of emergencies direct to peoples phones. Leveraging smart technology to create an integrated and responsive emergency management communication system is logical and progressive.
However one way communication is only a small part of the potential embodied in existing smart technology, social media and even games like Pokemon Go.
Community-initiated Facebook groups emerged during the 2010/11 Queensland and Victorian floods. Facebook is becoming a key source of information but also a way for communities to self-mobilise for recovery and communicate with family and friends, all without any government involvement.
Facebook itself is now trying to to de-fragment the barrage of information that flies around and out of a disaster zone. Its Safety Check feature allows users to let their connections know whether they are safe or not in the area of a disaster or crisis.
Some commentators have even suggested that games like Pokemon Go could be switched into a mode that rewarded players for donating blood, delivering water bottles, filling sandbags, or evacuating areas.
While some of these ideas may concern governments and have the potential to cause problems in emergency situation, the potential benefits are clearly huge. Social media and smart technology is already playing a role in emergencies. Therefore the question isn't should government get involved, but how.
A more appropriate emergency system for the social media age is one that does not merely push messages—but that also mobilizes communities, to collect intelligence from them or to take other action.