Hazelwood response: managing social media in a crisis

Victorian Premier and Cabinet’s Darren Whitelaw recently shared his experience of leading the social media response to the Hazelwood coal mine fire. Agencies can’t wait for the “speed of government” on targeted and timely responses to correct misinformation.

Following Black Saturday, the Victorian government has become more experienced and prepared in its emergency social media responses. Darren Whitelaw, Assistant Director, Strategic Communication and Protocol Branch at the Department of Premier and Cabinet, recently spoke to the Connected Government Summit in Melbourne about his experience running the social media response to the Morwell mine fire in 2014.

Darren Whitelaw

Darren Whitelaw

Whitelaw explained how, on Black Saturday, he wanted to set up “what we now refer to as a strike force, a social media command centre”, but was initially told “we don’t have any room for that here, all the seats are allocated to traditional roles.” Instead, he set up a team in the building next door to start responding to non-emergency messages and distributing reliable information on social media.

“Nowadays that’s pretty stock-standard of how we deal with emergencies and get messages out,” he said.

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