Friday, January 4, 2013

At the top of the list: Superstorm Sandy

Sandy Crisis Map

Was there ever any doubt? Superstorm/Hurricane Sandy ushered in the era of "socially convergent" emergency management. Because of where it happened, how the disaster unfolded and how impacted populations reacted, the storm left a lasting social, economic and policy impact.

I've written about the before Sandy and after Sandy eras, so I won't go into particulars again except to say that crowdsourcing, crisis mapping and other expressions of the empowerment of volunteers and citizens, have forever changed how authorities will respond to large-scale incidents/disasters.

Governments and agencies, at all levels, must now realize that new players have a seat at the table when emergencies occur and that they need to put in place policies that will facilitate the expression of people/volunteer power.  In a era of fiscal constraints, where response resources are more limited and stretched than ever before, the "force multiplier" effects of social media cannot be ignored. 

The behaviours have been there for thousands of years. When something bad happened, the ancient Greeks met at the agora, the Romans at the public square, then a few centuries later, at the church or maybe a pub ! We like to talk about what's occurred it's impacted us ... what we have witnessed .. and how we can help ... Now more and more, this happens online, on social networks. It's an added boost to community resilience and recovery.

So, we don't have a choice. We must bridge the gap between our citizens' expectations and our capabilities/policies. Some organizations are already well along that path of helping residents help themselves. Superstorm Sandy brought that realization to most emergency management agencies and governments. The old ways are gone ... people no longer simply want to be victims or witnesses ... they want, and they will, take part in some form or another.

We use that power to enhance our collective efforts ... or we ignore it and slowly become irrelevant as citizens and communities bypass official channels in favour of their own networks, implement their own initiatives and rebuild along a more distributed process that focuses on local, crowdbased and cloudbased solutions more adapted to their needs.

It's my opinion that Superstorm Sandy ignited this whole debate and that's why it sits atop my list of top SMEM events of 2012. 

The whole list: 

Series introduction (Dec. 5,m 2012)
#10: the Israel-Hamas War (Dec. 9, 2012)
#9: the wildfires in the western US (Dec. 12, 2012)
#8: the SMEMTO conference (Dec. 16, 2012)
#7: the lauch of FEMA's SMEM course (Dec. 17, 2012)
#1: Superstorm Sandy ushers in a new era for emergency managers (Jan. 4, 2012)

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