Tag Archive | SMEM

Emergency Management: Using Social Media to Save Lives?

According to a recent American Red Cross survey,  more than one-third of citizen respondents surveyed  said they expected help to arrive in less than one hour if they posted a request to an emergency response agency on Facebook or Twitter.  The problem here is that these assumptions could put a person in a ‘life or death’ situation if the First Responder group is not monitoring these platforms.

So the question is…

Has Emergency Management incorporated Social Media into their communication strategy?

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is listening and responding to this new public pattern of communication.  Federal Coordinating Officer Don Keldsen is quoted in a recent press release:  “Events worldwide have demonstrated how quickly social media can connect people and allow them to share information and help one another.  We have been able to reach the survivors of disasters through our continued posting to social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook.”

“The louder the voices from the ground, the better the response will be.  Access to accurate and timely information from the ground during post-crisis response  periods will enable humanitarian responders to act more efficiently,” said one volunteer involved in the evaluation of the Usahidi Haiti Project

Social Media offers real-time exchange of information on a Global scale!  An obvious advantage,  BUT all of that information is a double-edged sword.  One of the challenges emergency management has is the extra resources needed to manage this large amount of information:  to find the right conversation, analyze it and respond to it in a timely fashion.

There are other obstacles to overcome:  Professionals not familiar with social media face technical challenges, and policies/operational procedures/laws must now be adjusted to accommodate this new shift in communication. These are all factors that keep the pace of advancement towards the ultimate goal of eliminating communication silos between EM and the public, and between agencies within the EM umbrella (Fire, Police, Mayors office, etc).

But this is a work in progress.

Emergency management is taking the use of social media as a communication tool very seriously, and moving forward with great strides despite their challenges.  Online focus groups such as www.sm4em.org  have been created to support Social Media usage within the EM profession, creating chat opportunities such as #SMEM on Twitter.  Industry Conferences have recently offered sessions on best-practices  (i.e. WCDM, ASIS conference).  Most local municipalities have  started to engage with their communities on social media to best prepare them for emergencies in their areas – EMBC  offered a list of emergency #Hashtags to monitor during an event (May 2012).

What is our responsibility, as the public, to support our Emergency Management teams?

I believe that we should..

  • Be a part of the learning process.  It is just as much our responsibility to know HOW to communicate with our local first responders groups during an emergency.
  • Be forthcoming with any information that we have during an event that can help our emergency management teams respond effectively during or after an event. (I.e. video, pics, information, etc.).
  • Be smart about what is said online during a crisis to eliminate unnecessary information for EM to have to filter through

How is your local community emergency management team using Social Media?

Related Articles:

Related Posts:

Emergency Management and Communications

Who are our emergency managers?

Emergency management (EM) professionals’ role is to protect people, property, critical infrastructure and the environment during emergencies and disasters.  They are often involved in educating  the public on how to be prepared for such events. When a disaster occurs, they are the ones that are organizing the efforts to get help to those in need.  You will find emergency managers in any organization that are First-Responders during a disaster or emergency – i.e. Fire, Police, Paramedics, Hospitals, Municipalities, etc.

In Ontario, it is law that each municipality is required to have an Emergency Management Program Coordinator. [1] [2] Emergency management is sometimes a role within a role.  For example, a fire chief may take on the job of an emergency manager [3].  A sample task within this role could be overseeing the implementation of a more effective communication program between various First-Responders (i.e. police, fire, mayor’s office, etc) to use during an emergency.

How do they communicate?

Working with FutureShield for a couple of years, I have had the privilege of meeting some exceptional EM pros from across our country.  One aspect of FutureShield’s  business is to help their customers find the right software technology to support better communications within their organizations.  These men and women in charge of sourcing out such solutions are some of the most innovative, visionary and tech-savvy among their peers.  They understand the advantages of using technology to assist their efforts to support the welfare of our communities.  Examples –  Windsor Exercise , U Windsor wins the MTIA award , BC Hydro’s security during the  Olympics

Do these same people embrace social media as part of their overall communication plan?  How is social media affecting their roles?  How does it fit within their overall communication strategy?

Related Blogs:

References:

[1]  Ontario Regulation 380/04

[2] Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act

[3] Emergency Management Coordinator as an additional position – North Bay, Meaford, New Tecumseth

People, Links, Related Articles:

Patrice Cloutier  – Communications Strategist for the Ontario Government

Shared Emergency Management links

IAEM – International Association of Emergency Managers

OAEM – Ontario Association of Emergency Managers

Emergency Management Ontario – EMO

www.sm4em.org – online group for Social Media for Emergency Management – including Twitter Hash tag discussions #SMEM