News & Media

Brigade social media surges

By: CFA News

Category: Other

  4.45 PM 21 July, 2016

Location: General

Views: 2497

As we move closer to the 6th State Forum, social media will continue to be a hot topic – no surprise given the number of brigades with a Facebook page has nearly doubled over the past year. 

In 2015, a joint CFA/SES presentation about social media was one of the most highly attended sessions at the forum – and no wonder. The past three years has seen a huge surge in the number of brigades using Facebook in particular, and that is likely to increase.   

Ryan Vanderhorst works from CFA’s Burwood HQ to support brigades and districts with social media. He also looks after the two statewide Facebook pages (members and public).

 “At the moment there are 420 brigade Facebook pages that we are aware of. At the same time last year that was 260 and two years ago it was probably half that again. More brigades are now setting up their own Twitter and Instagram accounts as well.” explains Ryan.

“It’s a big deal. Brigades now have a very immediate way to engage with their communities and are absolutely maximising that opportunity.  

“There are obvious pitfalls with social media at the end of the day it’s about using common sense.”

Ryan, who earlier this year developed a new ‘Guide to Social Media’ for CFA members, the main consideration in starting up a community-focused page was the time commitment rather than the technical side of things.

“The jargon can be offputting at first but if you do want to dip your toe in, it’s easy enough to set up a dummy account and familiarise yourself with the functions.

“The main thing is to have your Brigade Management Team on board and make sure they are comfortable with what you are doing. Also that you’re able to be reasonably responsive to comments and questions that come in.

“Remember that if you want to limit what you are saying to members only you can do that via a closed Facebook group.”

With the phenomenon moving into the mainstream, more members are looking for advice and ideas. In fact, nearly one in five members to complete the 2016 communications survey (still running) indicated that they are interested in gaining more skills in social media.

Despite the fact that sessions are rarely repeated, social media will be back by popular demand for State Forum 2016, but will be almost entirely dedicated to Q&A.

Ryan, a volunteer with Upwey, also manages his brigade’s Facebook page. He says social media is good for conveying information but also good for giving emergency service organisations a human personality.

“If we are engaging with people in the community when times are good they are more likely to listen to us during an incident or on a spike day.

“Social media isn’t the be all and end all but it does give you another channel… and when you think about the time and effort that goes into a letterbox drop, it is a good option to have.”

The 2016 CFA-SES Community Engagement and Hazard Awareness State Forum will take place on 6-7 August in Lorne.

  • A closed Facebook Group has been set up for State Forum participants and devotees
  • Download the CFA Guide to Social Media and Social Media Procedure (protocol)  from Brigades Online
  • Click here for info about the Social Media Managers closed Facebook group (for members who look after brigade Facebook pages or are interested in doing so)
  • Read a story about how Golden Square and Upwey Fire Brigades have used Facebook. 
Last Updated: 22 July 2016