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9,200+ seek refuge on Facebook run by Student Volunteers

Facebook Pages in the NZ earthquake

Our organization’s thoughts and prayers are with the victims in Christchurch, surrounding areas and with their families and friends at this time. To honor them, we will endeavor to improve our citizen input to situational awareness for emergency responders in our own community. We can learn from New Zealand’s experience.

Concerned citizens are currently joining one particular Facebook page at the rate of 400+ per hour, with numbers increasing exponentially as I write. Although there are at least two other community or business organized, credible Facebook pages for the Christchurch disaster, offering news, updates and related support services, there’s nothing to compete with this one particular page. This article attempts to explain why that phenomena is occurring.

Facebook page - UC Student Volunteer Army

UC Students Volunteer Army Facebook Page

Reasons to be hopeful, I 2 3:

  • established over 5 months ago, registered as a non-profit org, not a random (albeit well meaning) good samaritan.
  • complete information on the info page – the who, what, where
  • garnering support for aftermath volunteer work – people are rallying to volunteer when needed

Active Official Agency Facebook Pages= 0
While the trending student site does not equate to an official Agency site, such as QPSmedia or Brisbane City Council, it qualifies in the categories below, in that it discloses who it is, has credentials as a registered non-profit, allows comments and listens. Pretty simple really.

Credibility of Admins

Other community run Facebook pages do not seem to have attracted interest because they do not name names and have credentials in the info section, the absence of which is not attractive on a Social Media site. Check out the stats below.

Two-way conversation:

Citizens are impressed by Social Media because it affords them the opportunity to be heard. If Agencies have no presence on SM sites like Facebook, or worse, set up a page, then abandon it, and/or ban comments, so the people cannot be heard, then it’s hardly surprising they will look for alternatives. If there are none, then they will take matters into their own hands and self-organize, as you can now see evolving on the above page.

The Twilight Zone:

We’re still in the most challenging phase of all, between immediate aftermath of the harrowing Christchurch earthquake of Feb 22nd 2011 and the arrival of thousands of people to help restore services and a sense of calm, that all evaporated in a heartbeat. Thousands of victims and their tens of thousands of extended family and loved ones throughout the world are shocked, and desperately seek information from local authorities at this time, to bring guidance and reassurance.

To say that quite a few of those folks are now looking for information online, on Facebook is neither an overstatement, nor a surprise at this point. I appreciate that it’s only a matter of a few days since our collective jaw dropped in awe and admiration at the mastery demonstrated by QPSmedia and Brisbane City Council over the use of SM in #qldfloods and #TCYasi, but the reality is that’s no longer the map of reality we find ourselves in – everyone else is still catching up. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

SMEM 101 = Facebook Page for Police and Town Council/ Board

As citizens, we now have the fabulous Google Realtime world, and in the twittersphere, developments are racing ahead impressively for SMEM, (and awesome), if only those pesky “hashtags” knew how to behave! One problem is that we’re separated by a common language, culturally diverse, unfamiliar with each other’s acronyms and I don’t care what age you may be, you DID NOT receive a qualification in “hashtags” as part of your high school diploma. Although in that department, I can produce an 87 yr old who Facebooks, there is a learning curve for most people that is going to take longer than we currently can afford to give them. We have to meet people on their terms, on their turf, which for now, means Facebook.

I’d be interested to hear Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas about ways Facebook could encourage this kind of participation at local government level. All I see is them shutting things down (see below). Did anyone ask him?


We can’t assume a presumuptive knowledge and education of SM that just doesn’t exist. We’ll debate back and forth on hashtags and sub-hashtags and hashtag hierarchical structure ad infinitum, but it’s already too late for New Zealand, so for now, the over-simplistic equation looks roughly like this:

Gov. Agencies + Google + Facebook + Citizen input = social media gold standard.

And we already knew this before the earthquake struck. So when New Zealand’s worst nightmare became a reality, why didn’t the PIO have Facebook on a checklist to make sure that aspect was covered? Could they endorse the UC Students who now hold the hearts, fears and hopes of (soon to be I’m sure) 10,000 people in the absence of any authoritive Facebook site? Would it be helpful for an NZ PIO to offer to help them manage questions on the Facebook page directly?



    1. UC Student Volunteer Army (7,029 “like”)

Non-Profit Organization · Christchurch, New Zealand

Founded 4th September 2010

Address: 90 Ilam Road, Christchurch, New Zealand

Update: We are working hard to organise volunteers. Please be patient. Make sure you have door knocked your street and checked on the people around you. En-mass volunteering will not be required for 1-2 days. We must let the professionals do their work first.

Thank you for all of your support after the devastating earthquake in Christchurch on February 22nd. This is a very different situation from the September quake, but we are definitely aiming to help in some way. Please be patient and keep checking back to this page for information. As soon as we know what we can do we will let you all know. Until then, keep out of the CBD. If you have a spare room please open it up to someone who is feeling lonely or who is unable to stay in their own home.This is a time for us to all pull together once again and show our strength in such a tragic time.
Thank you for all those who are thinking of us and praying – you can only continue.
Stay safe, save water and kia kaha.

Website: http://www.ucsa.org.nz/

Volunteer Form: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dDZsYldPOU93NGhrWVN1VnE5M3cxVUE6MQ

    1. Supporting the people of Christchurch after the 2011 Earthquake

http://www.facebook.com/chch2011 – (601 “likes”)

    1. Air New Zealand – Christchurch Quake Support


    1. Supporting Christchurch Earthquake 22-2-2011



    1. New Zealand Police (Wikipedia Listing)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Zealand-Police/103833122989373 (433 “likes”)

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