Governments turn to technology in post-disaster review

The Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, has signalled a growing role for social media and other communication technologies to play in helping governments manage natural disasters.

According to a communiqué issued by McClellands's office, and following the convening of an extraordinary meeting of the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management -- Emergency Management (MCPEM-EM) on Friday, technology will be a major discussion point as state and federal governments begin assessing ways to improve the nation's resilience following summer's natural disasters."

"[The National Emergency Management Committee (NEMC) will] convene a forum to consider new and emerging technologies that could be harnessed to assist with preparedness, response and recovery to natural disasters, with an initial focus on floods," the communiqué reads.

"[The NEMC will] give particular attention to the emerging role of social media, as part of the work on communicating with, and educating people about risks, under the [Council of Australian Governments] National Strategy for Disaster Resilience."

Despite the proven use of tools, especially Twitter, in the recent Queensland floods, the communiqué offered a caveat for social media use during natural disasters.

"Noting the value of the telephone-based warning systems, Emergency Alert and StateAlert, and the work that is being undertaken on the location-based warning capability, the Emergency Management Council emphasised that these technologies can only supplement emergency warning and information that is delivered primarily through radio and television, and also through a number of other mechanisms," the communiqué reads.