A new way to share disaster alerts, Government Shuts it down!
If you’re from or have been in New Zealand during and after the last few major disasters you may know that for a country that sits on a major active fault line would have a complete emergency alert system. A system that would alert people with all the necessarily and most recent information that people in an affected disaster area need to know.
Since these disasters kept happening and New Zealand failed to even have a basic understanding of disaster information, I started looking at ways in which a new system or method could be used in the information age to get correct, accurate and credible information to the public.
While sitting here tonight, watching the news and seeing an evacuation order was in place for Mackay, Queensland in preparation for Cyclone Debbie. A storm surge is expected and some people weren’t leaving even as the police asked them to.
I know where Mackay was generally but I wanted to know how much north of Brisbane it was. So I googled it and by accident hit Mackay’s Wikipedia page.
In that moment, I had an idea, what if the Wikipedia pages of areas with disaster alerts or emergency situations had alerts shown on them at the top. That way, if a person who had family or friends in the place happened to be looking at that places Wikipedia page and saw the alert, they could contact the person/people and check if they are okay and if they haven’t left, maybe try and convince them to.
Sounds like a great idea right? It’s actually great and its of minimal disruption to normal Wikipedia operations. I decided to do it. Not only did I write a warning based on the official warnings but I also cited it.
This is what I wrote:
Nice big bold Emergency Alert, indented text, link to the more official information and when it was added. In the change log I made reference to the fact that it need to be reviewed regularly.
Just to be clear, I took the information directly from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services with the date and time and a link to their official twitter account. I did not make anything up. I even cited it to comply with Wikipedia standards.
Less than 6 hours later, it’s removed, by a special user referred to only a by an IP Address. What a way to shut down vital information.
So who is this special user. Well this is where it gets a little strange. Its a special user all right. In fact the IP Address belongs to the Australian Government, Department of Parliamentary Services. Two points of interest here. 1) The government have time to sit around editing Wikipedia articles and 2) Why is the government removing what I’m sure even they could see is a good idea, even if it’s in its infancy.
This was a way to help decimate vital information for an emergency situation that was making use of a great resource that’s widely viewed in the top 5 results on a Google Search.
It’s too bad that Wikipedia shut all this down. Instead focusing on historical information when a connected platform could also double as working alert system albeit on a limited scale in terms of local viewership. However its a start and that’s something, well it was and it just died.