Home #EQNZ: Social Media Response to the Christchurch Earthquake

#EQNZ: Social Media Response to the Christchurch Earthquake

Last Tuesday New Zealand time, the city of Christchurch suffered a destructive and deadly earthquake. Measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, the quake wreaked havoc because it was shallow and close to the city center. It was the second major earthquake to have hit Christchurch in 5 months, after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on September 4, 2010. While the loss of life wasn’t nearly as bad as the Haiti earthquake of January 2010, Christchurch has been devastated and its people are emotionally scarred. They’ve endured months of aftershocks since September, then the cruel shock of another Big One.

It’s easy to feel helpless after such a devastating natural disaster, but social media tools have been usefully deployed over the past week. Last Tuesday we looked at how the Web mobilized straight after the quake. In this post we look at 3 specific ways that social media has stepped up to the plate, since then.

UC Student Volunteer Army

The UC Student Volunteer Army is a self-organized workforce, said to be 10,000 strong, that has been helping Christchurch people deal with the aftermath. Activities have ranged from shoveling silt, to assisting with welfare, to “visiting the hardest hit areas and providing hand-to-hand information and support.”

The group was founded on September 4 last year, after the first Christchurch earthquake, by university student Sam Johnson. Its Facebook Page has been the main rallying point.

The group uses a service called GeoOP to host online forms, for people to either volunteer or ask for help. GeoOp is a web-based solution for groups to organize their mobile workers and workflow. GeoOp, a local New Zealand company, explained on its website how the UC army is using its product:

“After being approached by GeoOP to use the system at no cost, Sam and his team were able to enter in all the jobs, dispatch via SMS and update jobs, take photos and notes in the field with iPhone 4’s donated by Apple and data cards donated by Vodafone, 2Degrees and Telecom.”

Telling The Story via Social Media: Storify

Twitter has been a key tool in disseminating news to the world, as well as being a way for people (New Zealanders in particular) to reach out and express their feelings. While there are Twitter hashtags like #eqnz to follow, the amount of information that flows through Twitter can be overwhelming. This is where a service like Storify (our review) helps, as it filters and organizes information from Twitter and other social media platforms like Flickr.

Local New Zealand newspaper the NZ Herald has been running a Storify page, giving its readers a curated, real-time flow of news and updates. NZ Herald embedded the Storify stream in its website, under the headline “Christchurch earthquake – what they’re saying.” The headline is a little misleading, because the stream includes content from NZ Herald’s own Twitter account. Nevertheless, Storify is a handy way to track this important story via social media sources.

Hat-tip Social Media NZ for the initial coverage of Storify.

Local NZ Web Startups Help Out

A local business community is always among the most passionate about helping out when disaster strikes. The New Zealand startup community is no exception and has pitched in with various efforts. There have been two main methods of helping:

1) Direct use of their platform or software.

Examples include GeoOp (noted above) and New Zealand’s largest web service TradeMe setting up a support website to organize accommodation, transport and more. While some of these aren’t social media per se, they often make use of social media tools.

2) Soliciting donations.

A group of NZ app developers has banded together and will donate 100% of the revenues from over a half dozen iOS and Mac apps – including Chopper 2 by Majic Jungle Software, Bird Strike by PikPok, and the NZ Red Cross app. Check out the website appappeal.co.nz for full details.

Wellington based start-up MusicHype.com last week appealed for musicians to submit tracks for a Christchurch earthquake fundraiser. Soon after, Songs for Christchurch was launched. If you donate $5 or more, you’ll get access to over 6 hours of New Zealand music donated by the artists.

The widget you see to your right, from Givealittle, enables you to donate money directly to the Red Cross.

As well as donations, local businesses need our support. To that end, a blog has been set up to encourage people to buy from Christchurch businesses.

These are just some of the ways that social media has been deployed in the Christchurch earthquake response. Whether it’s enabled people to help direct, as with the UC Student Volunteer Army and TradeMe, or has simply helped disseminate news and donation appeals, social media has done its bit once again in the face of tough times.

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