Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On reaching out and expanding the use of SM in EM

SM in EM or SMEM ... Social Media in Emergency Management can be many things: a philosophy, a cause to champion, an online community (if you add the # in front = #smem), a starting point, an end point ... In truth, it's all those things. You can find out more at: If you visit the site, you'll see a blog post that give me the inspiration for this current entry.

The common element in all the people that have joined the #smem on Twitter and those who take part in our #smemchat on Fridays, is the belief that we call all better serve our clients, citizens, stakeholders by integrating social media into our emergency management practices/programs. While we all have a common vision, we don't necessarily agree on the best way to achieve ... and that's great!

There is always a danger that those ahead of the curve, to get isolated from the rest of their fellow EM practitioners. That silo approach is easy to understand: you congregate with people who share your ideas. However, we must endeavour to break down barrier by sharing and conversing with those who don't.

That will be the only way to expand SMEM beyond those who have adopted SM currently and move towards full acceptance (in doctrines such as IMS/NIMS, official guidelines and procedures). The debate should not be about what the #smem community is about or how the hashtag should be used.
The real conversation needs to be how we share our enthusiasm, knowledge base and lessons learned with the entire EM and first responder communities.

In my opinion, the key to the widespread adoption and use of SM in all pillars of EM (and into all functions of the EOC) is the promotion of the successes already achieved by those who've made it work: in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and more recently, in the US.

It comes down to this simple truth: we have to match the public. They are already reaching out to one another, creating crisis maps, exchanging data. Where are we in that equation as official organizations?
Or do we mine the fabulous data out there during a disaster? To help with the response and the recovery efforts?

We're in an era of participatory EM by residents who won't be satisfied at just being victims or witnesses. People are changing our outlook on communications.

Every citizen with a cell phone (with GIS/GPS tech) is a potential source of data ... a mobile sensor ... an extra damage assessment tool ...

Realizing this phenomenon and using it to better our response ... to give ourselves a "community-based" situational awareness or operating picture ... (it's not a common operating picture anymore ... it's multiple, organic, cloud and crowd-based pictures ... a citizen-created mosaic ...) ... that's the key to a bright and relevant future for emergency management and crisis communicators.

That's the only way we'll be able to close the gap that is widening every day between the expectations of our audiences and our own technical/technological/procedural/policy capabilities. We don't fix that gap and we become irrelevant. As simple as that.

Latest case in point ... the brand new Google+ social network is already being used by citizens and volunteers as an emergency and crisis informatics tool. We saw extensive use of Google's offerings today for the Mumbai bombings.

Where are we?

I'd like to hear your answers. For a starting point to spur your reflection ... here's a link to an online webinar I conducted for Gerald Baron's PIERSystems Strategy Forum a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the link to the recording (audio and video) of the webinar, And the link to the slides.

I hope to hear from you!

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