In an interview with Nick Buczynsky, Community Emergency Management Coordinator at Halton Region,
I had a chance to find out first hand how one of our local regions is using Social Media to support their Emergency Management program.
Can you tell us a little bit about your job as Community Emergency Management Coordinator at Halton Region?
As the CEMC for Halton Region, I am responsible for coordinating the Region’s emergency management program, with emphasis on preparedness, training, public education and awareness, and emergency response.
How are you using Social Media to support your role?
Using a dedicated Twitter account, we tweet messages on emergency preparedness to help educate the public. Related messaging on incidents or events that may be occurring are also tweeted. Where we know of a potential situation, such as severe weather, we will tweet messages advising residents of how to prepare themselves for it. In specific emergency situations, we will tweet about the incident, any actions that residents should take, and link to the Region’s website for more information.
How long have you been using social media in your role?
Since August 2011.
What tools / platforms do you use? i.e. Twitter, Facebook. and Why did you choose these platforms?
Currently we are only using Twitter. It is fast and convenient and message penetration can grow exponentially in no time.
Challenges – you have faced using Social Media in your role?
Time dedicated to sending tweets had been a challenge, although with new staff this issue has diminished. Another challenge has been building up the number of dedicated followers. Although our initial goal was extremely modest and we have exceeded it significantly, I would like to see the number of followers in the thousands rather than the low hundreds.
Benefits – you have faced using Social Media in your role?
It has proven to be a good tool for following events – especially where we are not able to get much information from the site directly.
Is there a specific story that you can share where Social Media made a significant impact on your ability to communicate during a disaster / emergency event? How?
Just days after we launched Twitter, a very small tornado blew through Burlington. By tweeting Environment Canada warnings and our own tips on what to do in a tornado, power outages, lightning storms, etc., we quickly picked up a handful of followers – without having done any marketing, public education or even a media release/announcement that we have launched Twitter. That set the tone for future growth although, thankfully, we have not had a similar situation occur again to date.
If you can make one statement on the greatest impact social media has had on emergency management, what would that be? What would you like to see in the near future for your industry?
I think that social media has given emergency management professionals another valuable tool for relaying real-time or near real-time information on emergencies and other signficant events to potentially thousands of individuals directly.
Do you have anything you would like to share with our class here at McMaster University #SMRTCCE about how Social Media has impacted Emergency Management?
Thanks for the opportunity to share Halton’s experience with using social media in emergency management. I see it has great potential for communicating key messages to residents in a timely manner and can penetrate a large part of the community in little time once the number of followers grows.
Please check us out on Twitter – @BPreparedHalton