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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's time for emergency managers to catch up with society!

The Canadian Red Cross did all of us who believe in the growing importance of social media in emergency management (SMEM) a great favour. They commissioned a poll whose results indicate that Canadians expect us to use the tools they use every day during disasters.

The following infographic tells the story:

  • 64 per cent of Canadians use social media sites, 62 per cent of whom participate nearly every day
  • 63 per cent think disaster and emergency response agencies, including fire and police, should be prepared to respond to calls for help that are posted on social media networks
  • About one third of respondents (35 per cent) think emergency services would respond to a request for help posted on social media, 74 per cent of whom believe help would arrive within one hour
  • 54 per cent of Canadians say they would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe in an emergency
  • Although television (39 per cent) and radio (26 per cent) are the preferred ways of receiving news about an emergency, one third (31 per cent) of Canadians say they would prefer various electronic methods, such as web sites, social media or cell phones
  • While the majority of Canadians say they have personally experienced disasters, 66 per cent have not taken steps to prepare themselves for an emergency
  • The main reasons cited for not taking steps to prepare include: perception that a disaster is unlikely to occur in their area (27 per cent); never thought about it (21 per cent); and no time/never got around to it (12 per cent)












The interesting is to marry these results with these ones on mobile usage:

This social convergence (mobile tech + social networks) is the basis for a new era in emergency management and while there are many enthusiastic practitioners of SMEM in Canada, there is a great deal of room for acceptance by EM officials.

During my stay in Halifax last week, for the Canadian Red Cross Conference on Disaster Management, I heard lots of enthusiastic comments but those were not generally associated with ongoing SMEM practices.

Many recognize the value of social networks as emergency information tools ... as a one-way for EM agencies to communicate with their audiences during a disaster, few yet fully realize the great "force-multiplying" effect of the use of social media by citizens during disasters.

Simply put, they ignore the valuable data that people put out voluntarily to share their experiences in their neighbourhoods, streets and communities during incidents. All data, that can be monitored on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Reddit for example, and then analyze to provide actionable intelligence to support effective decision-making by command.

My argument to spur on adoption of full spectrum SMEM practices: there is no greater commodity for an EOC manager or incident commander than information or intelligence. Social media monitoring brings tons of such intel ... actionable information that can lead to better decisions and a more efficient use of strategic resources during a response ... that's a key point in a fiscal environment where resources are becoming scarcer. 


In the end, emergency managers won't have a choice ... they'll either make full use of the tools that the people they serve use everyday ... or they run the risk of being irrelevant or lack the full array of intelligence that leads to better responses.



2 comments:

  1. Great post, Patrice. I think this paragraph here is going to be key for a lot of agencies going forward:
    "Simply put, they ignore the valuable data that people put out voluntarily to share their experiences in their neighbourhoods, streets and communities during incidents. All data, that can be monitored on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Reddit for example, and then analyze to provide actionable intelligence to support effective decision-making by command."

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  2. Always great reading, Patrice. I bet this is applicable here in the US, too. You hit it bang on when you point out that you have to communicate with the audience with the tools they use every day. Thanks for the post.

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