Building Social Resilience and Inclusion in Disasters: A Survey of Vulnerable Persons' Social Media Use

  • Vanessa Cooper RMIT University
  • Peter Hayes RMIT University
  • Stan Karanasios University of Queensland
Keywords: Social media, vulnerable persons, disaster management, communication, community resilience


Social media (SM) is increasingly used to reach out to populations for preparedness and response to disasters. Given the disproportionate impacts of disasters on vulnerable populations (e.g., older persons, persons socially/geographically isolated, persons living with disabilities, persons of low socio-economic means) in this study we focus specifically on the attitudes, needs and future plans of vulnerable persons towards accessing and sharing information via SM during extreme weather events. Advancing understanding in this area is important as there is growing evidence that people who may be described as more vulnerable may have different communication needs and less access to disaster related information and technologies. We present the results of a survey of 215 vulnerable persons in Victoria, Australia. Rather than consider vulnerable persons as a homogenous group, we examine how persons with different vulnerabilities perceive SM for accessing and sharing information in the context of disasters and report findings which challenge prevalent assumptions about vulnerable persons and SM. Overall we find that vulnerable persons are not passive recipients of support during disasters but have self-awareness, a strong desire to receive information and the capacity to usefully contribute to the provision of reliable information via SM. With a view to improving outcomes for vulnerable persons in disasters we offer an agenda for future research.

Author Biographies

Vanessa Cooper, RMIT University

Vanessa Cooper is a Professor in Information Systems at RMIT University and co-leads the Digital Business Work and Life research program within the Centre for People, Organisation and Work. Vanessa’s research examines the impact of technology on organisations and complex contexts such as environmental sustainability, emergency management and the future of work. Vanessa’s research has been published in leading academic journals and won multiple awards, including best paper awards at international conferences and from the Australian Computer Society.

Peter Hayes, RMIT University

Dr Peter Hayes currently undertakes research in the Centre for People, Organisations and Work (CPOW) at RMIT University. He is also a Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre Research Fellow at CQUniversity. His research mainly focuses on emergency management and on the teamwork, decision making, and communication required to manage large, complex and challenging incidents. He has authored various emergency sector publications on decision making, incident management capability, and the use of simulation to develop incident management teams, and published in emergency management, safety, and organisational psychology journals.

Stan Karanasios, University of Queensland

Stan Karanasios is an Associate Professor of Business Information Systems at the University of Queensland. His current research focuses on the interaction between new information and communication technologies and society and in particular the impact of digitalisation/digital transformation in a range of settings. He has published in leading information systems and information management journals, including: MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Journal, European Journal of Information Systems, Journal of the Association for Information Systems and Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. He has been awarded research grants from a range of government and industry sources.


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How to Cite
Cooper, V., Hayes, P., & Karanasios, S. (2022). Building Social Resilience and Inclusion in Disasters: A Survey of Vulnerable Persons’ Social Media Use. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 26.
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