Sunday, March 4, 2012

Follow up: the empowering nature of social media in emergencies

Okay ...I've just come across two fantastic articles on the use of social media during, and after, the outbreak of tornadoes that devastated whole towns in the US Midwest.

You already know from my last post, that I strongly believe that SM can play a role in all aspects/phases of emergency management and all functions of any EOC. Let's look first at how social media helped during the tornadoes according to the National Weather Service: (highlights are mine)
Social media was used to both gather and disseminate information, resulting in a more complete picture for citizens and officials alike, said Toby TenHarmsel, information technology officer for the National Weather Service in Louisville.
He said the National Weather Service used social media to gather “ground truth information,” or first-person accounts. In addition to Facebook, they also followed the Twitter accounts of employees.
TenHarmsel said the National Weather Service doesn’t post warnings or storm-related information for specific areas on its Facebook page, instead providing an overview, but welcomes posts from others. A string of tornado pictures appeared Friday evening, including a dramatic one from Jefferson Co., Ind.
- Louisville, Courier-Journal, March 3, 2012 

A couple of things support the growing trend toward the democratization of emergency management and the participation of citizens who no longer just want to be victims:

  • "a more complete picture ..."  
  • "ground truth information" 
  • opening their FB page to info from people on the ground 
Now, let's look at how social media is helping the people of one small town in Kentucky recover. A real example of community resiliency enhanced by mobile technologies and social networks.
With phone connections spotty as emergency workers tried to repair downed power lines and clear debris, Facebook pages -- accessible by cell phone, mobile device, or computer -- have proven a go-to source for communities to assist one another.
In Morning ViewKentuckyPiner Baptist Church member Bea Angel turned to a Facebook group coordinating help in northern Kentucky to ask for flashlights, baby bottles, baby juice, sippy cups, newborn diapers and other items the church was collecting.
"A gentleman at our church lost everything on Friday and only has the clothes on his back. Looking for men's size 46 pants and XXL shirts," Jennifer Farwell Jewell of Independence, Kentucky, wrote on the page. Community members responded immediately with offers to purchase or donate clothing.
"This type of care and concern is what makes Facebook, and the internet well worth having!" said Timothy Anneken of Fort Wright, Kentucky, on the Facebook page.

 - Reuters, March 4, 2012

A couple of thoughts: 

  • social networks have again proved their resiliency in a disaster when other channels may not be available ... key platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide a lifeline
  • Mobile technologies is a game changer ... every single agency should have the ability to reach their audiences how they increasingly prefer to be reached: via mobile devices.
A final thought ... those officials who are still weighing the benefits of the use of SM in EM better get on board soon. The reality is that their own people are realizing the essential roles of these tools and mobile tech ... Pilot projects and studies are excellent ... but don't let the train leave the station and leave you stranded ... 

Irrelevance is too high a price to pay for emergency management organizations and authorities at all levels of government.

1 comment:

  1. Huge successes in Joplin, MO and now Branson, MO as well. See this release for info details.