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336 Harnessing social media for safety
  1. Laura Hokkanen
  1. Emergency Services College, Finland


Background Social media (SM) services are widely adapted by citizens, who at the same time are more and more equipped with mobile communication devices. As social networks have become common means for communication, also public authorities face the demand for being present online. How could the wide use of mobile SM be best harnessed for creating safety? This presentation addresses the use of SM and mobile technology in safety communication and communication during emergencies and crises.

Methods Presentation considers the issue through a literature review on research projects related to the utilisation of SM and mobile technology by public safety authorities. Reports of three EUFP7 funded projects and two Finnish Ministry of the Interior funded research projects are addressed.

Results SM is by nature multi-directional and interactive media. One-way, centralised communication has turned into communication of anyone and everyone. Easy access interaction between public authorities and citizens offers a new kind of forum for participating and sharing issues. Inviting citizens to take part in communication and involving them creates shared awareness and commits citizens in new ways – also in creating safety. Public safety authorities can also utilise mobile social media in fast distribution of information and gathering information useful for creating situational awareness. Questions such as the reliability of information, matters of privacy and data protection and the nature of the content published in SM need to be considered. Even a trusted institution needs to re-earn this trust when in SM.

Conclusions Communication is a key factor in building resilience and promoting safety. New media provides a new kind of a forum – and a form – for interactive communication between public authorities and citizens that can provide benefits for both. The change in communications processes pose a challenge to safety organisations and utilising the new media requires skills and resources.

  • Social media
  • Mobile technology
  • Crisis communication
  • Safety communication

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