Social media in a crisis: lessons learned during Golden's Indian Gulch Fire

Jeff Warner pic of the Indian Gulch Fire behind Golden.

Jeff Warner pic of the Indian Gulch Fire behind Golden.

Colorado is experiencing yet another year with enormous natural disasters impacting dozens of communities and many tens of thousands of residents. One of Golden’s recent brushes with disaster, aside from the near-miss flooding this fall, was the Indian Gulch Fire. The fire started on the morning of March 20, 2011 and quickly grew into the most significant fire in the country, threatening hundreds of homes in and around Golden, Colorado.

My City Council colleague Bill Fisher and I spent most of our waking hours that week gathering information about the fire and sharing it with our constituents in real-time via the web, Facebook, Twitter, and email. This was the first time in Golden that the web and social media had been used with any intensity to help share information, identify problems, and answer questions during a crisis.

Bill and I wrote a report detailing what we did and the lessons we learned from the experience. Although the fire was two years ago, most of the lessons from that experience seem just as fresh and relevant today. We shared an informal version of the report with city staff and City Council, and we thought that folks in the community might find it useful as well.

We would welcome your thoughts on any of this, especially about where Golden might head from here: how can the City of Golden (and other local governments around the country) – during natural disasters and perhaps at other times as well – be responsive to the growing use of social media and other internet-based tools for monitoring what’s happening in Golden and for engaging with the City and with each other as community challenges present themselves.

Download the “Community Communication During a Crisis – Lessons Learned During the Indian Gulch Fire” report.