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News on the Disaster 2.0 project

The first of two Masterclasses was held at Maple House, Birmingham on 5th – 6th November 2012. The Masterclass brought together emergency management officials to share their lessons and experiences of using social media to protect the public and build their resilience.


31 representatives from emergency management and government organisations across the EU participated in the two-day event. Eight presentations were given, including;



Role & Organisation


Glenn Sebright


Head of Media and Internal Communications , London Fire Brigade (UK)

Embedding social media in the emergency services

Peter Mertens

Spokesman, Crisis Centre of the Belgian Government (Belgium)

How thunderstorms at Pukkelpop 2011 stimulated Belgium’s use of social media for disaster response

Eva Barneveld

Communication Advisor, National Crisis Centre, Ministry of Security and Justice (The Netherlands)

From Word of Mouth to World of Mouth, Effective crisis communication in the changing world

Justine MacKinnon

Executive Director, JusComms (UK)

CrisisMappers UK, Humanity Road, and Ushahidi in Emergency Management

David Trissell

Attaché and Senior Counselor to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (USA)

Social Media and Emergency Management – FEMA

Bart Bruelemans

Emergency Manager, City of Antwerp (Belgium)

Social media for disaster response in Antwerp – the early lessons identified and our challenge

Marc Homedes

Head of Communications – Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament d’Interior(Spain)

Communicating with the public during the 2012 forest fires

Mark Payne

Superintendent, West Midlands Police (UK)

Social Media


Speakers outlined their organisation’s use of social media to manage emergency situations and the challenges faced when using social media as a tool to communicate with the public. Recommendations from the presentations included;

  • Social media can be used as a tool for two-way communication. Organisations may use social media to reassure and provide accurate information to the public and also to gain awareness of the public’s reaction to an incident
  • Social media can be used to quash rumours and confirm facts
  • A strategy needs to be adopted by emergency management agencies to use social media for emergency management.
  • Three different strategies were identified;

o Interact – using social media as a tool for questions and answers

o Push – repeating links to information

o Pull – getting useful information from the messages on social media


During the Masterclass, participants also identified a number of challenges of using social media for emergency management, including;

  • The potential for the telecommunication infrastructure to break and the network to overload during an incident
  • The risk that messages can be manipulated
  • Users are in charge of social media and can spread rumours
  • Data privacy and verification issues

In addition to the presentations, the Masterclass also provided participants with the opportunity to practice crisis mapping using the Ushahidi platform via This was facilitated by Justine MacKinnon who showed participants how to use the platform to map critical infrastructures such as fire and police stations.


Masterclass2To access the Masterclass 1 presentations please visit A second Masterclass on “Disaster information: the use of social media and semantic technologies” will be held in Brussels, 16-17 January 2013. For more information please email


The two Masterclasses are being held as part of the Disaster 2.0 project. The 2-year project explores how governments across Europe currently and can potentially use Web 2.0 applications (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Ushahidi) and Semantic Technologies in disaster response. The team is working with government organisations in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy and Poland to understand their perspectives on the potential of these technologies. The €950,000 project is funded by the ‘Prevention, preparedness and consequence management of terrorism and other security-related risks’ programme, European Commission – Directorate-Home Affairs (HOME/2010/CIPS/AG/002), Aston University and The University of Warwick.