Earlier this week, David Armano posted a very interesting article to his Logic+Emotion Blog about the growing trend for major companies and events to utilize social media centers to measure and control social media activity that might impact them. Mr. Armano specifically mentions companies like Dell and Gatorade and the events like the 2012 Super Bowl that will all leverage this concept.
As an emergency manager, this process intrigued me as it was very similar to the coordination and management utilized in multi-agency coordination systems like emergency operations centers (EOC) or joint information centers (JIC). I would wager a guess that an average emergency manager already has some of his/her most significant challenges in the maintenance, upkeep, staffing, and training of EOCs, JICs and the like. So is even a possibility to start looking at centers to manage social media information in a disaster? Maybe not...
However, there are two realities that must be addressed:
1) Social media continues to grow in its use and complexity and routinely is impacting emergencies and disasters from all sorts of angles including information distribution and intelligence about the event. So if this is true, then...
2) Social media has to be monitored and leveraged some way. Is it a special position(s) in the EOC or JIC? Are specialized individuals tasked with this assignment at an incident or in the EOC?
Mr. Armano doesn't provide the specific answer to the above question but does encourage the use of social media to focus on People, Process, and Platforms. These "3 Ps" will help any organization begin to break the complexity of social media into measurable and achievable parts. Using this type of format and structure could greatly improve the usability and management of social media by emergency managers before, during, and after a disaster.
According to a recent study by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Center for Marketing Research, Inc. 500 businesses are embracing Facebook and LinkedIn as the most popular and effective tools for fast-growing companies. Additionally, the survey identifies that corporate blogging has fallen over the last year with a general trending away from more mature tools (ex: blogs, message boards, online videos, and podcasting).
So what does this mean for emergency management....?
Emergency management is not a major company with significant investment in marketing or industry trending. However, we should always be aware of what is happening at major companies. Because they do look for efficiency and effectiveness in all the tools they utilize, there are certainly lessons that can be learned.
For instance, in the most metaphysical question possible to ask in this forum....what should emergency management do with blogs? Many great practitioners blog via this site or many others and share unique (and hopefully interesting) perspectives on activities and trends in the field. These types of blogs seek discourse and engagement one a one-to-one or one-to-community basis. This type of engagement is at the crux of emergency management and response. We have to engage sometimes one to one with disaster survivors or one-to-many during community recovery. We have to be honest and true whenever possible. Ultimately, it's all about the humanity, which blogs are true mirrors for. Measuring the idiosynracies and needs of the community are critical whether it's in this forum or during an event.
So even though major companies may think blogging is of less importance, it may be one of the best tools emergency managers have to be genuine and honest.
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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.
I have the distinct pleasure today of attending the third annual Midwest Disasters 2.0 Social Media Workshop in Kansas City. Like many communities throughout the United States, Kansas City has slowly, but definitively been moving forward on when, where, and how to integrate social media into multi-disciplinary emergency management.
The Midwest Disasters 2.0 Social Media Workshop is a two day event that is divided into three sessions. Today will include a 4 hour social media introductory class taught by Kim Nakahodo (@kimnakahodo) and Almitra Buzan (@almitrab). This afternoon will be a series of social media exercises conducted by Hal Grieb (@hal_grieb) to teach users how to leverage social media monitor tools.
Tomorrow's seminar will include presentations on a variety of topics including the CDC's Zombie Preparedness campaign, gamification in preparedness, mobile apps, augmented reality, strategic partnerships, and crowdsourcing just to name a few. Great and knowledgeable speakers including Cheryl Bledsoe (@cherylble), Alicia Johnson (@urbanareaalicia), Yasamie August (@AlabamaEMA), and Holly Hart (@Toomers4Ttown) will be providing these wonderful topics.
The best part is this entire event was provided for free to the local emergency management and preparedness community by leveraging the few remaining UASI funds available in the region. Great work!
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The second day of the Midwest Disasters 2.0 Social Media Workshop was a great follow-up to the first day's training and exercise. Presentations and speakers from Georgia to Washington provided insight and experience regarding how social media is (and can be) leveraged in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. A summary is as follows:
Dave Daigle (@cdcemergency) -- As a CDC Communication Director, Mr. Daigle presented on the recent Zombie Preparedness campaign. He provided very interesting insight how about an $87 investment lead to one of the most successful online preparedness campaigns ever. More interestingly, he discussed how the campaign has maintained "legs" as it continues to be discussed and leveraged by other groups.
Yazamie August (@AlabamaEMA) -- As the PIO for Alabama Emergency Management Agency, she discussed the State's social media engagement during the April 2011 tornado outbreak that caused significant damage throughout the State. This included a discussion about the challenges of establishing a facebook page after the disaster has struck
Holly Hart (@Toomers4Ttown) -- As the coordinator of the Toomers for Tuscaloosa movement, Mrs. Hart discussed the rise and successes of the crowdsourcing of disaster assistance outside of government approval, engagement, and oversight. This emergent group apparently arose in response to a public perception about a slow response from government
Zachary Toups (@toupsz) -- As an augmented reality specialist with TEEX, Dr. Toups discussed the possibilities (and challenges) of augmented reality in disaster response and recovery. Specifically, the possibility of using technology (ex: iPhone or iPad) to see the world and add data layers (ex: GIS layers) on top of the view. This was a fascinating topic for the future.
Alicia Johnson (@urbanareaalicia), Cheryl Bledsoe (@cheryble), and several others have yet to present, but have scheduled presentations on open data/government, gamification, strategic partnerships, and account management.
The @MWD20 is tweeting regular updates about the event and they are leveraging the #MWD20 hashtag for anyone.
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As the use of social media has grown in emergency management disciplines, so has the desire to create effective exercises related to this new communication tool. The challenge has been two-fold. First, the speed of information exchange in social media systems makes it extremely difficult to create artificial injects and scenarios that truly reflect the pace at which things might truly happen. Secondly, using real social media accounts for exercises is extremely risky. For instance, simply putting "this is an exercise" in a Twitter message might work at first, but if it got retweeted those words might get lost or deleted. Additionally, the real audience on the legitimate account might also be confused. The second major challenge for social media exercises has been the integration into ICS, NIMS, and the HSEEP model of exercising. These systems struggle to integrate dynamic content and messaging at appropriate speeds due to the built in command and control review.
With that said, there have been a variety of attempts at conducting exercises that address these issues and truly push the capability of responders to respond to social media in real-time situations. For instance, the #SMEM community on Twitter conducted an exercise earlier this year. Likewise, other organizations have incorporated social media pieces into larger exercises.
However, earlier this week, I had the pleasure of participating in an exercise conducted by Hal Grieb (@hal_grieb) at the Midwest Disasters 2.0 Social Media Workshop in Kansas City, Missouri, that specifically focused on social media response to a natural disaster that was HSEEP compliant and paced appropriately. Mr. Grieb divided the exercise into three parts. The first part was a seminar intended to teach the participants about various monitoring tools (ex: TrendsMap, Monitter, etc.). The second part was a drill where participants were asked to use those monitoring tools to track currently trending global activities like Mardi Gras. The third and final component leveraged artificial and closed Twitter accounts that were assigned to exercise groups to simulate information exchange after a mass-casualty incident from a freak winter storm.
Participant feedback was good. They did really well with the final stage of communicating in real-time with those simulated individuals involved in the accident; however, they really struggled with the monitoring process. Hal and his team are working on the After Action Review and I feel sure will share major takeaways in the future. Overall, this exercise was well structured and would serve as a good model for other communities. The only suggestion I would make would be to expand the time for the event to allow for a longer learning curve on some of the tools. Great job Hal!
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