This case considers the communication efforts of government agencies during the Hazelwood Mine Fire that burned near the town of Morwell for 45 days in early 2014. For the residents of Morwell, located only 400 metres from the privately-owned mine, the incident rapidly evolved from a bushfire to a mine fire to a technological and health crisis. Coal fires pose specific types of health risks due to small particle inhalation from smoke and ash, and this, combined with the demographic profile of the disaster area, demanded a clear, coordinated and audience-specific communication response. Very quickly confusion and misinformation from key stakeholders led to much public fear and unrest both during and after the fire. This is a two part case. It can be used to examine the challenges of strategic communication in times of uncertainty and crisis. In addition, it also lends itself to an exploration of the use of social media during crisis situations, and the preparation for and coordination of crisis management responses. Part A provides scene setting and overviews the initial response of state government agencies.
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