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Friday, April 22, 2011

Integrating social media into your warning system

I'm really happy to say that Emergency Management Ontario has climbed on the social media bandwagon. This long-overdue development comes thanks to some very good work and policy development from a great bunch of people.

(DISCLOSURE: I work for the same provincial ministry that is responsible for EMO and I collaborate closely with them.)

The EMO twitter feed http://twitter.com/#!/OntarioWarnings also comes in French and will be used to provide emergency preparedness tips in routine situations and will be used as an emergency information tool during disasters/crises. This first step in the integration of social media into emergency management is often the hardest to take. Congrats to EMO!

The Twitter account is only one way that EMO will use to warn Ontarians about impending emergencies. They have a well thought out process to let as many people know as possible.

I'm certainly pleased with this development. I can now point at tangible achievements from our emergency management organization. Beyond the use of Twitter, other small steps are occurring and paving the way for a bright future toward a systemic integration of social media into our programs.

Earlier this winter, we worked with CrisisCommons/CrisisCamp Toronto to put up a pilot crowd map. This was done in preparation for a giant snowstorm that never really materialized. However, EMO linked to this volunteer-created map as a proof of concept.

As the digital volunteer/technical volunteer community develops and refined its standards, training and partnerships with official agencies, this sort of collaboration is going to become commonplace.

There is fantastic work being done currently on the Manitoba and Saskatchewan floods. That work could certainly be of great value to the emergency management organizations of both provinces. There have been preliminary contacts between the volunteers that created and are updating the maps and officials. That's very good. The next frontier will be in achieving some kind of more formal partnership. This needs to be done without dampening the enthusiasm and dedication that drives the digital volunteer communities.

But, progress is being made, in Ontario and elsewhere and I must say it's a great era to be involved in emergency management. Again congrats to all my colleagues at EMO.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this success story. I think agencies here in the US are lagging behind those in Australia and Canada when it comes to social media. The LA Fire Department is a notable exception. They do a great job notifying folks when it comes to wildfires. Your blog is always a nice resource.

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