Emergency and disaster management is a complex process that is filled with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of moving parts that require a delicate balance. Various functions such as operations, planning, communications, media management, public assistance, damage assessment, and debris management are examples of activities that must happen in concert and collaboration to ensure an efficient and effective response and recovery effort.
Occasionally, significant new tools are introduced to this process that often create dissension among practitioners at various levels. The rise and impact of social media is one such example. Emergency management practitioners at all levels -- both public and private -- are struggling to understand the basic concepts and the implementation strategies that will benefit their organization and/or community.
Unfortunately, the introduction of social media seems to have forced many practitioners to extremes. One on side, practitioners are shifting their plans and operations to solely focus on social media based on an assumption that social media is so revolutionary that it will replace all other forms of communication and traditional media. Conversely, others exist at the other extreme and fully believe that social media is insignificant or not important enough to embrace as a new communication tools. In both cases, there is often a strongly implied if not stated belief that any other view is ridiculous.
Unfortunately, this extremism doesn't work and isn't good for the emergency management community. So much of the work we do is based on collaboration and learning from our community and each other. We all need to seek out communities of practice that are open to discussion and disagreement about how social media can (and will be) used.
I'm certainly social media's biggest fan for use in a disaster, but I can still (and certainly do) learn from others.