When Bushfires Sound Alarms, Social Media Can Save Lives

Hanna Suominen | The Conversation | October 24, 2013

These days, social media and online apps have become a major source of disaster information and warnings. But how much can we trust them?

Today, more than 82% of Australians use the internet and 76% can access it on a smartphone or other mobile device. These numbers have been rising rapidly – the rate of mobile access more than doubled from 2010 to 2013.

In recent years, many have turned to official online sources for fire information and weather warnings. And joining official authorities' bushfire crisis maps is Google’s Fire Crisis Map and Public Alerts.

Google’s map shows fire locations together with their severity and activity (such as if they are ongoing). It also pinpoints areas at risk, registered back-burning, traffic and road conditions and links to further information. It uses state-level fire authorities as its source.