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Melanie Irons_smallWhen a State is in a state of emergency, and thousands of people are cut off without power, phone reception and in desperate need of supplies, social media can be a useful resource for reaching those in need and those who can help.

As a keynote speaker at the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference Dr Melanie Irons knows all about how social media can be used to assist in search and rescue operations in ways that emergency services have been unable to.

In an Australian Story ABC Documentary ‘Irons in the fire’ presented by Caroline Jones, Dr Irons demonstrates the power of social media through her involvement in the 2013 Tasmanian bushfires affecting up to 3000 Tassies in a time of crisis.

With a desire to help people who had little means of communicating Dr Irons had the idea to set up a Facebook Page “Tassie fires we can help”. Within 24 hours the Facebook Page had 17,000 likes and people began using it as a means for communicating. People were putting up requests for fuel, generators, food and water and people were responding.

Quickly, it became a useful resource for many individuals who were looking for family members and putting up requests for the things they needed. People would post requests and in some cases it would arrive within the hour!

Through the Facebook Page “Tassie fires we can help” the word for help was out and the reach of this information was phenomenal. Help in many forms, volunteers and donations came thick and fast in what was a risky but effective operation. People were being serviced with the things they needed that the emergency services were unable to deliver.

The success story highlights the importance of social media across emergency situations and how the information can be harnessed effectively.

You can hear Keynote Speaker Dr Melanie Irons at the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference (ANZSAR) held at the Jupiters Hotel, Gold Coast on the 1 June 2016. CLICK HERE to register for the Conference. To view a list of confirmed keynote speakers CLICK HERE.

Since January 2013, Mel has had a huge amount of academic interest in and media coverage for her work, as she examined as part of her PhD the role of emergent groups like the one she created in Tasmania. She won the Golden Wattle Award for 2013, a 2013 Resilient Australia Award and a 2014 Recognition of Merit in the same Awards. She has also been presenting at numerous conferences and consulting for a number of different organisations since her efforts in January 2013 – both nationally and internationally, most recently in Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Latvia and Germany.

The one day conference follows the 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference also held at Jupiters, Gold Coast, QLD 30-31 May 2016.

To view the ABC Australian Story documentary in full CLICK HERE

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