Until two weeks ago, the only thought that popped into my mind when I heard the name ‘Marcia‘ was the eldest sister from 1970s American sitcom The Brady Bunch. With only four TV channels to choose from, watching the Bradys was standard after school viewing growing up in 1980s Australia.
That was until 18 February when a tropical low formed in the Coral Sea and was named Tropical Cyclone Marcia: #Marcia and #TCMarcia started trending on Twitter as communities along the coast prepared. Marcia intensified over the coming days before making landfall early on Friday 20 February at Yeppoon, 700km (435 miles) north of Brisbane. Central Queensland bore the brunt of the cyclone, it destroyed houses and caused widespread power outages for days, with clean up still in progress now.
By the time Marcia reached the greater Brisbane area on Saturday 21 February, it had already weakened into an ex-tropical cyclone bringing not destruction, but only rain, flash flooding and a few fallen trees. Below are 14 thoughts on how we prepared and responded to this severe weather event at Redland City.
1) We posted preparedness messages early
We posted preparedness messages early and often, not knowing exactly how strong this weather system would be when it arrived. The post below went out two and a half days before Cyclone Marcia made landfall.
Shared 579 times, it reached 59,808 people: an audience 7 times the size of our page. It featured advice on how to prepare your home, business and linked to our disaster management plan website.
2) We used text overlaid on images
As you can see in the example above, we overlaid text on images for social media to make them eye-catching. You only get a second or two to capture someone’s attention as they flick or scroll through their Facebook feed: make your post count.
For quickly creating images like this I recommend shareasimage.com. Sure we have Photoshop at work, but shareasimage can be accessed anywhere and is very convenient.
3) We used social media to ask for help
On the evening of Thursday 19 February, SES (State Emergency Service) volunteers needed help filling sandbags at our local showground. When I arrived and took a photo there were only 3 people helping out.
4) We experimented with GoPros
Early on Friday morning, my colleague Jon went out and took a couple of GoPro videos at our local SES depot, sending out the message that there were plenty of sandbags available for the community. This timelapse video made it on to the Brisbane Times live Marcia blog.
5) Social media was an important source of intel for our operations teams
Being able to keep track of, acknowledge and reply to intel coming in from social media is vital in these situations.
If you work for a council or government agency and you are not using social media for this purpose, you need to get onboard quickly!
6) We used social media as a source of content
As well as providing us with valuable intel for our operations teams, social media provided us with valuable content to embed in our live updates blog.
7) Our live update blog worked well
Information was being updated every few minutes at times, so our live updates blog worked well in this fast-moving situation.
8) We love live streamed video
Our Bambuser live streamed videos were quick and easy to shoot. During this event, we bumped up the audio and video quality to high and the results were better than our efforts during the North Stradbroke Island bushfires last year. The video below embedded on Facebook had over 1100 views.
9) People lose interest quickly when they know the event is over
We had over 24,000 pageviews on our live updates page on Friday. This plumetted to 6500 pageviews on Saturday when people realised that all ex-Tropical Cyclone Marcia was bringing was bucket fulls of rain.
10) . / F / Follow
In the past I’ve seen Facebook pages encouraging fans to put a full stop in the comments of a post in a vain attempt to beat the Facebook algorithm. We have never done that – but during this event, dozens of people started typing . / F / Follow on posts to get notified of any new comments.
11) Tagging friends continues to rise
Many of the comments we had on posts during this event were people tagging their friends and family to let them know what was happening.
12) Local hashtag
We used the hashtag #MarciaRedlands for our tweets and Instagram photos as we didn’t want to clog up the #TCMarcia hashtag for communities up north facing the worst of the cyclone. Some local tourism operators also started using #MarciaRedlands.
13) Post event messages
We had a lot of post event clean up messages at the ready but in the end didn’t need them. Instead we did a thank you video from our Mayor Karen Williams and a post on safe disposal of sandbags.
We are rolling out social media access, awareness and training to staff across our organisation. The demand for this training and awareness is even greater now as people realise more and more the key role social media plays in disaster situations.
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
I’ll always think of The Brady Bunch when I hear the name Marcia. After all, I was a little bit in love with her when I was a kid.
Let’s finish this blog with Jan Brady doing her famous line…
52 tips for social media disaster management communications
Like this blog? If you haven’t already, check out my 52 tips for social media disaster management #comms #smem