During the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, two Quebec City (which is the capital of Quebec and not in Lac-Mégantic) residents, Vicky Villeneuve and Maxime Gagnon Desbiens, took it upon themselves to create a Facebook page titled “Lac-Megantic: Support aux Gens”, which means “Lac-Mégantic: Support for the people”. This Facebook page was created to provide people with a place to go to quickly verify whether those that were missing had been found or not. Villeneuve and Desbiens also created a website that served as a crowdsourced platform where people could post and update the community about the victims that had been lost and those that were eventually found – in real-time.
It was a beautiful idea executed by two Quebec citizens who didn’t know anyone from the Lac-Mégantic area, but who had a strong urge to help the victims and their families and friends.
At the time, Villeneuve told Global News that:
“We are giving people the only resource they have right now, because there is no official list from the provincial police or Red Cross available yet. So, we’ve been relying on families and friends in Lac-Megantic, who are collectively building this list and giving us confirmation. It gives them hope.”
Although you have to be careful of unverified information, rumors and speculation circulating the social web in a crisis, this is a beautiful example of citizens using social media to be proactive and helpful in a tragic time of crisis.
This example goes to show that we don’t have to wait for companies, organizations and/or officials in a crisis. If there’s a way to help and be useful, social media gives us the means to get creative and the power to help a community in need.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
Chris Miller says
Thanks, Melissa, for sharing this citizen response to a crisis. A similar approach was generated following catastrophic bushfires in Tasmania, my father's home state. See Facebook page Tassie Fires – We Can Help generated 4 January 2013; http://www.tassiefireswecanhelp.com/ and http://www.abc.net.au/iview for ABC1 "Australian Story" for the episode called "Irons in the fire". Many kilometres may physically separate Australians and Canadians, although closely some of our ideas are running in parallel. Comparative case studies for me to include in my crisis comms conference opening remarks, 3 Sept, 2013, Melbourne. Cheers, Chris
Melissa Agnes says
Very cool, thanks for sharing these links with me, Chris! Australians and Canadians always seem to have very similar (fabulous) thinking. It's very interesting to see. The power of online community and crowdsourcing can be extremely strong and effective, when done right, in a crisis.
Chris Miller says
Indeed, we learn much from each other, Melissa. Your namesake’s story will be online for another 9 days, so I hope you get to see it on ABC (Australia) iView. It was amazing what Mel et al achieved harnassing people power – businesses saved, people with food, water and more as well as probably feeling like people cared about their desperate situation being trapped on the peninsulas by fire. Some of the comments from the volunteers are also worth a look and provide some fabulous case studies too. Somehow there was only 1 fatality, a fire fighter. It was a miracle given we had people in the water with their children and grandchildren watching their homes burn, trees and cars exploding and even their beaches burning. My father and brother have visited the Tasman Peninsula since these recent fires. Tasmanians, like all Australians (and Canadians too, I suspect) are resilient people putting their lives, homes, businesses and tourism incomes back together again, despite terrible losses. Thanks and cheers, Chris from downunder