European Expectations of Disaster Information provided by Critical Infrastructure Operators: Lessons from Portugal, France, Norway and Sweden

European Expectations of Disaster Information provided by Critical Infrastructure Operators: Lessons from Portugal, France, Norway and Sweden

Laura Petersen (Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC), Essonne, France), Laure Fallou (Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC), Essonne, France), Paul Reilly (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK) and Elisa Serafinelli (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/IJISCRAM.2017100102

Abstract

Previous research into social media crisis communication has tended to focus on use by emergency managers rather than other key stakeholder, critical infrastructure (CI) operators. This article adds to the field by empirically investigating public expectations of information provided by CI operators during crisis situations and if CI operators currently meet such expectations. It draws on key themes that emerged from a review of the literature on public expectations of disaster related information shared via social media. Then, it presents the results of an online questionnaire and interview-based study of disaster-vulnerable communities in France, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. Results indicate that members of the public expect CI operators to provide disaster related information via traditional and social media, but not necessarily respond to their queries on social media. Operators appear to meet public expectations of traditional media use, but should expand their current practices to include digital media. Recommendations for CI operators on how to do use social media follow.
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Introduction

Effective crisis communication can be defined as “the provision of effective and efficient messages to relevant audiences during the course of a crisis process” (Freberg et al., 2013:186). Since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 social media has been used in crisis times for sharing disaster information and build situational awareness (Latonero & Shvlovski, 2010; Potts, 2014). This has led to the development of a series of guidelines for blue light organisations, such as police, firefighters, rescue services, etc. who use blue light sirens, as well as emergency managers on how best to use social media as a tool for crisis communication. For example, EU projects DRIVER, CascEff, COSMIC and EMERGENT have all produced guidelines. Various national governments also have guides. Previous research in this emergent area has tended to focus solely upon how these actors or the public use social media in crisis times (The American Red Cross, 2009; Bruns, Burgess, Crawford, & Shaw, 2012; Imran, Castillo, Diaz, & Vieweg, 2015; Reuter & Kaufhold, 2018; Reuter, Kaufhold, Spielhofer, & Hahne, 2017; Reuter, Ludwig, Kaufhold, & Spielhofer, 2016), often overlooking the role played by another key stakeholder, critical infrastructure (CI) operators. Thus, there have been few empirical studies exploring public expectations of information shared by CI operators during crisis situations. This paper attempts to address this gap by answering the following four research questions:

  • RQ1: What do European citizens expect of CI operators in regard to information provision during crisis situations?

  • RQ2: Are there any noticeable similarities/differences between public expectations based on nationality or other demographic factors?

  • RQ3: How do these declared expectations compare to the current communication efforts of CI operators?

  • RQ4: How can CI operators meet these expectations?

It does so by drawing on key themes that emerged from a review of the literature on public expectations of disaster related information shared via social media (Section 2). Then the methodology (Section 3) and the results (Section 4) of an online questionnaire and interview-based study of disaster-vulnerable communities in France, Norway, Portugal and Sweden are described. Afterwards, the findings are discussed with regard to social media use by CI operators during disasters (Section 5). Our findings show that the public have high expectations to be provided information, but less high in regard to answering comments on social media. CI operators appear to meet expectations concerning traditional media use, but not necessarily when it comes to digital media use. The paper concludes by proposing recommendations for how CI operators can use social media to communicate with the public during crisis situations (Section 6).

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