Friday, February 25, 2011

How can we improve our preparedness message?

Still lots to be done ....

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Canadians aren't ready for disaster: Survey


Updated 1 day ago

Following the devastating earthquake in New Zealand this week and several other high-profile quakes in the past year, a new survey has found that while Canadians are worried about natural disasters, they are woefully unprepared for one.

"This study shows us that Canadians have a gap in their knowledge about what to do if faced with a natural disaster," said Lesley Lewis, CEO of the Ontario Science Centre.

Up to 20%of Canadians believe that they will not be able to last the recommended 72 hours in case of a natural disaster, but as many as 24% of Canadians think that a natural disaster will pose a direct threat to their home within the next five years.


Volunteer Crisis Mapping: aiding officials to inform the public

from Heather Leson's blog

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The Sydney Morning Herald also noted that: “Another site,, is taking pressure off emergency services by plotting official and user-generated information and reports on a Google Map.”

CrisisCamp NZ teams are working around the clock to keep up the response. Their tireless efforts have amassed 779 reports, 781 different locations, and 69, 143 unique visitors to the site. Partnerships exist with NZ media, universities, Google Person Finder and the Student Volunteer Army.  Tim is coordinating mapping/techncial situation rooms on IRC, Skype and, in person, including Optimal Usability.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The age of social media convergence

We have truly entered the age of social media convergence. At each significant event around the world, from the birth of Ushadidi in Kenya in 2008, to the Haiti earthquake, to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, to the most recent disaster in New Zealand, the growing role of social media platforms and the mobile technologies that make them efficient and omnipresent tools cannot be denied.

I cannot fathom why some observers chose to minimize the role of SM in these events. While not the cause of the revolution in North Africa and the Middle East, social media is certainly the mobilization channel that made these event a vast popular movement.

Here's Wahel Ghonim, one of the face of this so-called "cloud" leaderless revolution:

Okay so here it is ... the three convergence vectors:

  1. mobile devices and technologies
  2. social media platforms and the willingness of people to share their experiences and opinions
  3. a new era of volunteerism ... both in the digital word and on the ground ... people help, create, and build powerful networks.
Let me illustrate my point and talk a little bit more about each of the three converging trends.

First, mobile devices and technologies ... the ubiquitous cells phones, smart phones and all the infrastructure that make them work. Even when repressive regimes try to shut them down, it doesn't work ... 

Very smart people come up with technical work-around fixes that get the news out such as the Google voice-to-tweet or giving Yemeni youth the ability to be heard around the world.

And this trend toward mobile Internet consumption is only accelerating: 

That's the first vector of convergence ... the second is social media.

People use social media in emergencies to communicate, share their experiences and provide valuable information to one another. They also expect authorities to use social media to inform them during a disaster as a recent American Red Cross survey indicated. Here are some ways social media is used in emergencies.

This illustrates it well too:

In the first few hours of a major disaster, when infrastructure might be affected, people now turn to social media as a source of information. The power of SM platforms like Twitter and Facebook grows with adversity when people want to grasp any little bit of information that might help them get through stressful times, find out if relatives are safe and so on.

People turn to FB and Twitter because the information is there ... provided either by authorities or volunteers. Christchurch shows that in spades. It forces those responsible for helping to monitor social media and use these platforms to be effective. Old ways are no longer sufficient, as the US Navy discovered during the response to the Haitian earthquake in early 2010 and key briefing documents quickly got overtaken by info provided through social media.

Social media also provides a mobilization tool that's unequaled in rapidity and effectiveness. One stereotype after another is falling in the aftermath of the New Zealand earthquake. Youth who spend a lot of time online are in fact MORE likely to volunteer and engage in their community ... not less.

This means that Christchurch is now the battleground of a 9,000-strong student volunteer army mobilized through Facebook. 

This brings us to the third and final convergence vector: volunteerism ... Mobile technologies, GIS mapping, cameras, smart phones ... social media platforms (including Skype and others) now offer a tool to mobilize resources from all continents ... often more quickly than what local authorities can call up in short notice.

The whole crisis mapping community has done extraordinary work in the New Zealand earthquake response. Recognition is coming from all corners and from the people affected by the disaster. The information provided in helping people and authorities with regular updates and with new elements being added whenever relevant.

The miracle is that these sites came about very quickly ... in an hour or two following the tremor.

All this illustrates a new age, not only for disaster and emergency response but also for how we look at our world and for us, as citizens of this planet, we chose to make a difference. This convergence of technology, communication and engagement is changing the face our world.

Clay Shirky talks about that in his "Cognitive Surplus" address.

I hope this makes sense to you and look forward to  your comments.

Again, the great value of digital volunteerism

Many kudos to all the people who are giving their time, effort and passion.

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How a three-day-old crowdsourcing site is helping Christchurch residents

Listen to this article. Powered by

The Christchurch Recovery Map,, is a great crowd-sourcing site helping people affected by the earthquake in Christchurch find out what’s open, what’s not, and get help with clean-up and getting businesses back up and running.

It’s interesting because it:

  • lets citizens help other citizens

  • is working with other services including Civil Defence, Google’s People Finder, TradeMe’s busy support page.

  • lets people connect with it by text 5627, email, Twitter hashtag #eqnz and through the site itself

  • was only set up on Tuesday afternoon and is growing in reach and capability by the hour

  • is run entirely by volunteers from seven countries

  • is run on the Ushahidi platform

  • aggregates official news and media streams alongside reports from residents on the ground

It’s truly amazing how quickly all of these online resources have been set up since the earthquake hit on Tuesday Feb 22 and even more amazing how well they are working together – thanks to a bunch of hard-working individuals and a whole lot of emails.

More about that later. In the meantime, lots of people still don’t have phones or the internet in Christchurch so call your local radio station and tell your networks about


Don't forget the companion animals

Many people won't evacuate without their pets during an emergency. Need to plan for animal care in your emergency management program.

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Vet Emergency Response Team Mobilised

Voxy News Engine

Voxy News Engine

Friday, 25 February, 2011 - 14:29

The University's new Veterinary Emergency Response Team will travel to Christchurch on Sunday to assist in caring for animals following Tuesday's earthquake.

Team Leader Hayley Squance says the Christchurch Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the city council's animal control services today requested assistance to deal with domestic pets in the city.

Five members of the team leave for Wellington tomorrow for a briefing before travelling to Christchurch.

Ms Squance expects they will go door to door checking for animals that may need assistance. She says while there is no major animal emergency as such, but the team will assist in assessing the needs of animals in the city.

The team's mobile vet clinic is not required at this stage and the team will work out of a local clinic.

Based at the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at the Manawatu campus, the team comprises veterinarians, veterinary technologists and vet nurses with expertise in companion animals and livestock.


How fast digital volunteers mobilize

A coalition of groups: Ushadidi, CrisisCommons, CrisisMappers, Humanity Road. EPIC/TtT and others ... having been in on the first few hours ... that response was impressive and needed as info was sometimes slow from official channels ...

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How the site came about to help with the Christchurch earthquake

Johnny Diggz from Geeks without Bounds coined it the Crisis Voltron. Within an hour after the earthquake in New Zealand, was launched, (collaboration tool), a blog post circulated, multiple tweets sent and a skype group chat formed. We connected volunteers from New Zealand, United States, Canada and around the world including people from various volunteer technical communities: CrisisCommons, Sahana Foundation, CrisisMappers, Standby Task Force, Ushahidi, Geeks without Bounds, Humanity Road, Tweak the Tweet and others. The Google Crisis Response team contacted us after seeing a note on the CrisisMappers mailing list.


Facebook as a volunteer mobilization tool

Are we ready to manage a large influx of help and offers to help?
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Student volunteer army mobilises
A 10,000-strong student volunteer army has been gathered via social networking site Facebook to help those suffering in the wake of Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Christchurch.

"We are working closely with Civil Defence in this operation. At this very early stage we are focusing on helping everyday people in their homes in low risk areas with non-life threatening situations," student organiser Sam Johnson said.

The volunteers planned to meet at the University of Canterbury Students Association tomorrow morning before shipping out to dozens of sites across the city "to roll up their sleeves and help out".

 Louis Brown, from Te Waipounamu Foundation, which has joined forces with the volunteer army, said Christchurch had been brought to its knees.

"It is our job to support Civil Defence the best we can and provide suitable opportunities for those who want to help. It could be lifting shelves off beds for elderly or clearing garages of silt and muck, whatever we can do to help."

Canadian Police and Social Media

Listen to the podcast

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For our upcoming show on law enforcement and social media, Nora interviewed Laura Madison. Laura’s a criminologist, and the co-founder of the Canadian Association of Police in Social Media. She’s also the co author of a report called Survey of Official & Unofficial Law Enforcement Twitter Accounts in Canada, the United Kingdom, & the United States.

A shorter version of this interview will air on an upcoming episode of Spark, but you can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 16:51]

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? You’ll get regular weekly episodes, plus additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]


A great survey ... a stereotype goes down

Internet activities = more community engagement

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Does the Internet make for more engaged citizens? For many youth, the answer is yes, according to a new study by civic learning scholars.

This press release was issued by the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

February 23, 2011

Digital Media & Learning Grantmaking, Grantee News, Press Releases

(Irvine, CA) — Youth who pursue their interests on the Internet are more likely to be engaged in civic and political issues, according to a new study of student Internet usage by a group of civic learning scholars. Youth who use the Internet are also more likely to be exposed to diverse political viewpoints, the study shows.

The study's findings run counter to two commonly held assumptions: first, that the Internet makes exposure to divergent political viewpoints unlikely, the so-called "echo chamber" effect; and second, that the Internet promotes shallow activism among youth, so-called "slacktivism."

The first-of-its-kind longitudinal study by civic learning scholars of high school students' Internet use and civic engagement found that:

  • For many youth, their interest in the Internet translates into engagement with civic and political issues.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is rare for individuals on the Internet to only be exposed to political perspectives with which they agree, but many youth are not exposed to political perspectives at all.
  • Teaching new media literacies such as credibility assessment is essential for 21st century citizenship.

The power of volunteers, digital or otherwise

Digital divide? Not when it comes to helping in times of crisis. We are share the same programming: we want to help.

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CrisisCamp NZ is progressing well. is expanding its role. The site is now providing the following services:

People Finder

Google is now promoting the official URL for its people finder to be The tool is a public database, where people enter either names of persons they are looking for, or if they have information about someone.

Responding to calls for help

The public can submit a request to That will activate a response from University of Canterbury organised VSA – Volunteer Student Army. The VSA has 8,000 registered members that are able to provide assistance with tasks such as clearing silt, bricks and so forth. Additionally, we also scan Twitter for the hashtag #helpme and the public can free SMS 5627 to access this service.


Ghadafi is one scary guy!

Saddam use chem weapons on his own people ... hopefully not a prelude to another reckless invasion ...

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"When you have a guy who's as irrational as Gadhafi with some serious weapons at his disposal, it's always a concern," said a U.S. official. "But we haven't yet seen him move to use any kind of mustard gas or chemical weapon" during the unrest.

Current and former U.S. officials said in interviews that Washington's counterproliferation operations against Libya over the past decade have scored gains, in particular the dismantling of Tripoli's nascent nuclear-weapons program and its Scud C missile stockpiles. But the level of instability in Libya, and Col. Gadhafi's history of brutality, continues to make the U.S. focus on the arms and chemical agents that remain, they said.

Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, U.S. officials said, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons that Col. Gadhafi has channeled in the past to militants operating in countries like Sudan and Chad.

WASHINGTON—The government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi hasn't destroyed significant stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents, raising fears in Washington about what could happen to them—and whether they may be used—as Libya slides further into chaos.

U.S. Fears Tripoli

May Deploy Gas

As Chaos Mounts


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Or sometimes the net is not what it seems!

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The need to protect the internet from 'astroturfing' grows ever more urgent

The tobacco industry does it, the US Air Force clearly wants to ... astroturfing – the use of sophisticated software to drown out real people on web forums – is on the rise. How do we stop it?

Internet user in public library, London, England
A real person using the internet. Unfortunately we can no longer assume what we are reading is written by one of these creatures. Photograph: Jeff Blackler/Rex Features

Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren't what they seem.

The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns that create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public. For example, there's a long history of tobacco companies creating astroturf groups to fight attempts to regulate them.

After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.


on the psychology of resiliency

A pretty good piece on how people react to disasters

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Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has written extensively about the mindset that predispose people to success. She notes that people seem to have one of two default mindsets, which may be expressed as preferences in any number of aspects of their lives. She proffers simple pairs of statements to determine which mindset people use to approach various situations in their lives.

For this situation, Dweck might ask people to agree or disagree with the following propositions:

  1. The ability to recover from a major disaster depends on the resources available to me and others after the event.

  2. The ability to recover from a major disaster depends on how I and others use the resources we have after the event.

  3. Our resource endowments — what we have managed to accumulate — determines how well we will adapt to our new circumstances.

  4. How we develop our resources, especially our human and social capital, determines how well we will adapt to our new circumstances.

Those who express a stronger preferences for statements 1 and 3, I would suggest, are more likely to approach their current situation with a fixed mindset. They will have difficulty finding the strength to move forward and they will find their progress more difficult and more limited than those with a growth mindset.

The growth mindset people will find it easier to agree with statements 2 and 4. They will find a way to take advantage of every opportunity to rebound from this tragedy. They will consider themselves bent but not broken despite their losses. They will see the challenge as an opportunity to rise above the limitations others impose upon them or they themselves might have seen in their previous situations.


Being prepared to communicate when disaster strikes

Okay, again, let's quickly set the stage.
  • crises and disasters can (and do) happen at anytime. You need to be prepared to communicate with your audiences:
    • What they need to know to protect themselves, their families, property, environment, etc,.
    • What they need to do to adopt the behaviour you wish them to adopt (shelter in place, evacuate, stay informed, be prepared)
    • What you are doing to respond to the incident (plan in motion, key priorities are ...)
  • social media means that expectations and attitudes have changed among your audiences:
    • they expect a communications response from you within minutes ... and when infrastructure is down (phones and even your website). social media can save the day ... are you prepared?... see this piece on the New Zealand earthquake 
    • they will share their opinion on your response that can influence public perception and therefore, the confidence of your elected officials, or senior executives 
    • people will share what they're witnessing ... may use social media to call for help, not only for themselves but for others, often from another continent, helping to find the missing ... Google has a good read on this and responded to the current situation in New Zealand ....
  • We are at a key convergence point in terms of mobile devices and technologies and social media ... that allow people to help ... those digital volunteers will help with maps, apps and other digital tools but they'll also show up, and/or motivate others, to show up in person at reception centres and other venues, to help ... 
All this to say: be ready!  The communications need to be immediate ... to respond to concerns, inform your audiences and help coordinate volunteers .... You also need to monitor social media diligently in your response ... and have a process in place to avoid information overload.
So Barry and I, have worked in the last couple of years, to champion the use of message maps as the principal method of shaping key messages that can be delivered quickly and efficiently at the onset of a crisis and in the days that follow.  Our presentation at Ryerson University in Toronto was thus organized in three key parts:
  1. impact of social media 
  2. social media in crises and emergencies and how to integrate in crisis communications planning
  3. message mapping ... how to craft and deliver key messages 
You'll find the first two parts in this presentation on
The part on message mapping can be found on Slideshare (with videos).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Latest crisis communications and message mapping presentations

My co-author Barry Radford and i (PTSC-Online project) recently gave a session on crisis communications at Ryerson University to a class of PR students. It was another great opportunity to impart knowledge and share our enthusiasm about the use of social media during emergencies.

Barry and I are both champions of the crisis mapping technique and we devoted the whole second part of our lecture to that.

Here's an overview of the presentation:

  1. social media revolution ... setting the stage
  2. social media in emergencies 
This part can be found here on

Part three was a powerpoint on the key aspects of preparing and delivering a message map.
and can be found (with videos) on slideshare.

Hope you find these useful

Red Cross mobilizing in New Zealand

Never forget the huge contribution of NGOs during disaster periods.

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Red Cross activates national emergency centre in Wellington

February 22, 2011Business, PressRelease0 comments

Press Release – NZ Red Cross

After the 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Canterbury area today, New Zealand Red Cross has activated the national emergency operations centre (NEOC) at the national office in Wellington and the Christchurch response team.

Red Cross has on stand-by emergency response teams from Blenheim, Nelson, Timaru and Dunedin.

Red Cross has offered MCDEM (Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management) and other agencies our resources and response teams as required.

For any offers of goods, services, personal offers are to be forwarded to the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) in Wellington. The email is

We are assessing the situation closely and will make a decision on an appeal and donations tomorrow morning.

Advice from the Ministry of Civil Defence is that people in Canterbury should:

* Expect aftershocks. Each time one is felt, drop, cover, and hold on.

* Check yourself first for injuries and get first aid if necessary before helping injured or trapped persons.

* Assess your home or workplace for damage. If the building appears unsafe get everyone out. Use the stairs, not an elevator and when outside, watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines. Stay out of damaged areas.

* Look for and extinguish small fires if it is safe to do so. Fire is a significant hazard following earthquakes.

* Listen to the radio for updated emergency information and instructions.

* Do not overload phone lines with non-emergency calls.

* Help people who require special assistance – infants, elderly people, those without transportation, families who may need additional help, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.


Critical Infrastructure ... maintenance... well, critical

How many bridges, dams, roads and other key elements of our infrastructure are in dire needs of repair?

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LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. — Frank Brassell, owner of Nelda’s Diner in this town wedged between the slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada, knows his fate should Lake Isabella Dam, a mile up the road, suddenly fail when the lake is full.


Michal Czerwonka for The New York Times

“I work here,” Mr. Brassell said, looking around the brightly lighted diner. “And I live right over there,” he added, pointing across the town’s main street.

“The water would all come down here and it would try to take a right turn and go under the freeway, and it wouldn’t all go,” he said.

“So I’m dead.”

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. — Frank Brassell, owner of Nelda’s Diner in this town wedged between the slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada, knows his fate should Lake Isabella Dam, a mile up the road, suddenly fail when the lake is full.

“I work here,” Mr. Brassell said, looking around the brightly lighted diner. “And I live right over there,” he added, pointing across the town’s main street.

“The water would all come down here and it would try to take a right turn and go under the freeway, and it wouldn’t all go,” he said.

“So I’m dead.”


Resilience in action

It's in all of us ... the more prepared we are ... the more resilient we will be!

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Kiwi’s show strength on country’s “darkest day”

By Kate O'Brien, MSN NZ
Wed Feb 23 2011 06:00:00 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time)
Christchurch residents quick to help out

Related articles

The country may have faced its “darkest day”, but New Zealanders have shown a strength and spirit that will help them endure the difficult days ahead in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake.

Emergency personnel weren’t the only people risking their lives to help others in Christchurch – residents and workers who were caught up in the disaster showed their bravery by assisting those around them.

One man who spent the night helping where he could with two friends said the city is like a war zone.

“We’ve seen dead bodies on the street.”

A Civil Defence volunteer, he plans to spend today doing whatever is asked of him.

As the scenes unfolded on TV we witnessed people being carried out of buildings on make-shift stretchers, over shoulders and by piggy back. When overstretched ambulance workers were unable to meet demands, residents shuttled the injured by car. When people were unable to offer physical help they gave words of support.

As the buildings collapsed around them the pictures showed people hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm making sure others got to safety. In their greatest time of need they held on to each other for mutual support and it is this spirit of togetherness and strength that Kiwis around the country and the world are showing for each other today.

Mayor Bob Parker has been inundated with offers of help. There will be plenty for people to do in the days and weeks to come, he says, but right now people need to look after their own families and neighbours.

“Look after each other. Take the time to focus on people in your community.”


Monday, February 21, 2011


A great collaboration: CrisisCamp Toronto

We had a great learning experience yesterday (Sat. Feb. 19) in Toronto. Crisis mapping experts, IT developers, social media practitioners and emergency managers got together to exchange ideas and view and look at opportunities to make CrisisCommons, a group of dedicated "digital volunteers", a valuable tool for emergencies, here in this province, and across the world.

I learned a great deal about the value of crisis mapping. It's a perfect illustration of the value that two-way social media conversations can improve situational awareness for emergency managers.

Here are couple of pix:

A highlight of the day, was the skype chat we had with a key developer of the USHADIDI crisis mapping technology who's currently helping in Haiti.

One things come out of this very clearly. Contrary to what many people believe, those who are immersed in the online world, so-called IT geeks, are more likely to become engaged and volunteer.

CrisisCommons Toronto and all the other chapters of that organizations are a fantastic resource that should top of mind of emergency managers worldwide.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A great collaboration: CrisisCamp Toronto

We had a great learning experience yesterday (Sat. Feb. 19) in Toronto. Crisis mapping experts, IT developers, social media practitioners and emergency managers got together to exchange ideas and view and look at opportunities to make CrisisCommons, a group of dedicated "digital volunteers", a valuable tool for emergencies, here in this province, and across the world.

I learned a great deal about the value of crisis mapping. It's a perfect illustration of the value that two-way social media conversations can improve situational awareness for emergency managers.

Here are couple of pix:

A highlight of the day, was the skype chat we had with a key developer of the USHADIDI crisis mapping technology who's currently helping in Haiti.

One things come out of this very clearly. Contrary to what many people believe, those who are immersed in the online world, so-called IT geeks, are more likely to become engaged and volunteer.
CrisisCommons Toronto and all the other chapters of that organizations are a fantastic resource that should top of mind of emergency managers worldwide.

Here's a short video of the day's deliberation ... taken when we were skyping with Haiti.

We also conducted a very useful chat on the use of social media during emergencies ... take a read here on Twitter at #csmemchat.

All in all ... a great day

Friday, February 18, 2011

Social media during emergencies: what's happening now and are we ready?

There was a pretty good post recently by Eric Holderman on the social media tsunami that's coming.
My contention is that there are already quite a few people in the emergency management world who are already surfing the SM wave.

In fact, as I stated in a previous post, we have reached critical mass and organizations of all types, but especially first responders and emergency management agencies, that don't involve themselves in social media are doomed to fail.

The amazingly fast pace of technological evolution, and most importantly, its acceptance by a growing number of people, the omnipresence of social media in more and more people's lives and, surprisingly for some, the increasing engagement by ordinary people who volunteer their time and expertise during a disaster, all mean were are at a major convergence point. Let me explain.

  1. technology ... meaning mobile devices really, GIS-based web and mobile apps, GPS and crisis mapping ... can't forget to mention cameras and videos ... hundreds of millions of people walking around ... being news gatherers and providers of information ... that you can instantly map ... here's our first convergence vector 
  2. social media ... platforms such as Twitter and Facebook ... but also SMS and other forms of "burst communications" allow people to share the info they've gathered "out there" ... geo-tagged for more relevance and use ... these channels are increasingly working both ways ... obviously more emergency management agencies use SM to inform their audiences of incidents and disasters ... but more and more ... these agencies are "mining" the the data provided by tweets and twitpics and all that ... to improve their situational awareness picture ...think of the United States Geological Survey using Twitter to complement its array of seismographs ...
  3. Many thought that the "connected age" would mean that a lot of people would become e-recluse and avoid real world contacts and be very unsociable and not participative ... in fact, studies indicate that people who collaborate online, form or join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, or chat on twitter ... are MORE likely to repeat that behaviour in the real world when a crisis or disaster occurs ... that explains the phenomenal work done by the IT and GIS people behind the crisismapping phenomenon ... from USHADIDI to CrisisCommons ... they are now a very valuable info and situational awareness tool.
Many examples prove the point: the standard-setting work of the Queensland Police Service during the Australian floods, to CrisisCommons work after the Haiti earthquake, to the essential role and community-based impact of social media in the Boulder Fire,. Things have changed forever.

Not so long ago, the emergency management tent was pretty much the exclusive domain of first responders and emergency managers. Then came the private sector (utilities in particular). The next wave were the NGOs who play a big role on scene now, feeding responders, doing first aid and fulfilling other support functions. Now, it's time to recognize the essential contribution of the next wave of volunteers: the tech savvy, those spurred by social media interaction ... who have the ability, expertise and willingness to help.

From having volunteers perform social media monitoring in your EOC or JIC, to helping post information on your SM accounts or crisis maps, to having the crisis mapping experts help your own GIS technicians, the possibilities are endless.

That's the power of social media ... it brings a certain democratization of emergency management and is certainly a powerful mobilization tool ... look at the situation in Egypt ... The unassuming hero of the Egyptian Revolution, Wahel Ghonim, said it best on a 60 minutes interview:

Why wouldn't you use this mobilization tool to engage your community before, during and after a disaster?

Are there risks? Yes. Some will make mistakes ... but you know what? So do the so-called experts ...

To me, it seems to be a win win situation ... find a way to capture this enthusiasm to your benefit and your response will be improved.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Training on Saturday ... Social Media, IT, crowdmapping and emergency management folks getting together

We are meeting in Toronto to further our collaboration with the CrisisCommons Toronto group, This collective of volunteers represents a fantastic resource during emergencies both for helping to provide situational awareness and to help disseminate emergency information.

During the course of the day, we'll be having a chat to try to involve more people. I enjoin you to participate! 

The CrisisCamp Toronto team will host a skype conference and #CSMEMchat for Social Media in Canada on Saturday, February 19, 2011. It will be from 14:00 - 15:00. The idea is to get a group of folks talking about this from a Canadian context.

Draft wiki page - Feel free to edit and share

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Emergency Management Ontario and the new E-learning for IMS-100

Emergency Management Ontario has put a new learning tool on its website and it's a great one!

Since the emergency management family is expending, we need to ensure that everyone who now gets to sit at the table can speak a "common language" and have similar understanding of key concepts.

Therefore, I think it's very important, not only for first responders or those involved in emergency management, but also those who work with NGO's, municipal services such as public works, social services and others, to get that basic IMS training.

Here's the link to it the IMS-100 training on EMO's website.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Key observations following a presentation on social media and crisis communications

I finally had the occasion today to present a variation of my talk on the impact of social media on crisis communications planning to the people I work with everyday. As is often the case is our busy existence, I had not had time until now, to address this key audience.

I'm glad I was able to share a few observations with colleagues and I hope that my enthusiasm was contagious.

Here's the link to the actual presentation.

As I always try not to give the same exact presentation and continuously update my talk whether it's about social media in emergency management, law enforcement or crisis communications, preparation is the key and also a good occasion to take a step back and confirm, or challenge, my assumptions.

A few notes then:

  1. don't confuse the tool for the objective or strategy: yes, social media is a great crisis communications tool ... but that's exactly what it is ... a channel, a way to a means ... a fantastic option to communicate effectively.
  2. Social media allows you to respond immediately and very efficiently if it's part of your overall crisis communications plan and not just a spur of the moment thing.
  3. To achieve this ... social media must be integrated in all components of your plan:
    • Policies/Procedures: who does what, who can post on your SM accounts? when ?
    • People: are they trained? Do they know how to best use and monitor SM?
    • Preparation: are your key messages social media friendly? how can you adapt them for twitter use for example? 
    • Practice: do you have confidence that the people implementing the plan can use SM effectively? Well, there are services now that allow you to tweet and post on facebook as if it were real ... although no one can see these trials ...
    • What this means ... there's now a fifth P in platform for social media platform.
  4. For effective use of social media in emergency management and crisis communications, you must focus on listening, adopting the right tone. You need a broad social monitoring program that allows you to respond quickly to false rumours, questions from stakeholders and your audiences and generally engage in real conversations that allow you to be heard over the din.
  5. In addition, SM is proving to be more and more of a valuable tool for emergency managers and authorities as people contribute valuable emergency information through Twitter, YouTube or Facebook ... Crisis mapping being a very good example.
I focused on these various topics and I think my colleagues liked what they heard. Keeping the attention and interest of such a group of professionals is always a challenge ... so I consider it a success because they kept interrupting me with questions throughout !