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Government using Twitter to communicate after the Chch Quake

Government using Twitter to communicate after the Christchurch earthquake

Ensuring government can communicate with people in a variety of ways is especially important during a crisis such as the recent Christchurch earthquake. The social media channel Twitter was successfully used in the aftermath of the earthquake to communicate critical information about the earthquake and the initial civil defence emergency response.

"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 Stephen Crombie, Deputy Chief Executive, Knowledge Information, Research and Technology (KIRT), Department of Internal Affairs. "Twitter provided a mobile-friendly means of getting critical information out.

"As well as communicating new information from a variety of government agencies, Twitter provided an efficient means to direct people in Christchurch to local information and services and in some cases to correct misinformation.

"Twitter was effectively utilised by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (@NZcivildefence), The Department of Internal Affairs (@CEQGovtNZ) and Christchurch City Council (@ChristchurchCC). 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."

Mr Crombie says Twitter was a useful addition to the traditional channels of television and radio to communicate with New Zealanders. "We are continuing to review how social media tools can be used in a way that will complement these traditional channels.

"Approximately 5000 messages were tweeted by government staff in the three weeks following the February earthquake. The three Twitter accounts massed a large number of new followers after the quake and we were able to answer questions about a range of issues including electricity and gas status, road closures, sanitation and the availability of support," says Mr Crombie.

Now that the focus has moved from response to recovery, staff from KIRT and Civil Defence will continue to work with Christchurch City Council and the newly-formed Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, to ensure Twitter followers receive accurate and timely updates.

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