Saturday, June 30, 2012

an SMEM reality check

I had the opportunity to be deployed to the site of a structural collapse in Northern Ontario this week to help coordinate emergency information. The outcome was a sad one with to people losing their lives. 

What I want to focus on is the provision of emergency information (EI) and the use of social media in such disasters. You all know I'm a big proponent of crisis communications planning and the use of social networks as EI tools.

This is easy to do from the comfort of my home and office in the Greater Toronto Area ... deployments such as this one though ... bring a needed "reality check" to just how much things have changed on the ground ... in all areas of the province.

Let me be clear here ...What i'm about to discuss is not about Elliot Lake (#elliotlake on Twitter)... or how the collapse of the Algo Centre Mall was handled in terms of communications. These are simply general observations that are important for planning and SMEM considerations:

  1. many organizations still consider the traditional media as their primary conduit to inform the public ...
  2. many still operate on a 24-hour cycle ... with daily news conferences and/or public briefings ... they don't see a need for constant updates in between daily briefings ...
  3. many do not use social media at all to communicate with their audiences 
  4. many do not monitor social networks to identify issues and communications needs/gaps that may exist
  5. many do not have any crisis communications expertise or training 
  6. many smaller communities have no trained Public Information Officers 
  7. many organizations still think that disasters are local and are unaware of the role that people far away can have in shaping the public perception of their actions/response
  8. and, very importantly, many communities still lack the communications infrastructure (bandwith, mobile access) to make full use of SMEM ... 
I could go on but these observations are fairly important in my mind ... we need to ensure that the reality of today's communications/media universe reaches all corners ... 

That's why climbing down from my ivory tower from time to time is a good thing! 

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