Alongside traditional channels such as television and radio, Twitter played a pivotal role in relaying critical news and data during the Christchurch earthquake in February, says New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
Knowledge, Information, Research and Technology (KIRT) and other government staff sent out over 5,000 tweets to share vital information – and correct misinformation – with residents of the Christchurch area.
Twitter also allowed those residents to ask questions about road closures, the availability of support, sanitation and electricity, notably through their phones.
“Many affected people did not have access to desktop computers either at home or at work, but mobile data services remained available for many residents,” says KIRT deputy chief executive Stephen Crombie. “Twitter provided a mobile-friendly means of getting critical information out.
During the first few days following the quake, staff worked round the clock from Wellington, the Wairarapa, Dunedin, and Christchurch providing information to people in the Christchurch area, and relaying enquiries to the National Crisis Management Centre.”
The 6.3 magnitude tremor killed more than 160 people, shattering a city still recovering from an earlier quake in September.
The focus has now moved from response to recovery, but KIRT and Civil Defence staff will work with Christchurch City Council and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority to ensure followers on Twitter continue to receive updates.
“We are continuing to review how social media tools can be used in a way that will complement these traditional channels,” says Mr Crombie.