Sunday, October 7, 2012

Building community resilience and social networks

I had the great privilege to be invited to present at the Canadian Red Cross Conference on Disaster Manager in Halifax earlier this week. The theme of the conference was "community resilience" and I was asked to talk about the use of social media in emergency management (SMEM).

We heard from Laurie Pearce of Royal Roads University on the need to build resilience from the bottom up, based on the capabilities and strengths of communities. Karina Pillay-Kinnee, the Mayor of Slave Lake in Alberta, told the immensely powerful story of how her town was nearly destroyed by a wildfire and how community resiliency provided the backbone of its ongoing recovery.

Also very illuminating was a first-hand account of the Japan Triple Disaster from  Naoki Kokawa of the Japanese Red Cross.

I tried to orient my talk on the notion of social media as a key element in all components/pillars of emergency management and the EOC. In my mind, this certainly goes way beyond using SM as communications tools although they are very powerful instruments in connecting with audiences during a disaster. Information is aid ... social networks play a great role in delivering it.

I believe that the true power of SMEM resides in the increase of information and data available to decision-makers. It allows them to deploy resources is a much more strategic manner because their situational awareness can be in real-time, down to the hyper-local level with the use of the right technologies. We all have to gain by a full integration of SM into EM.

I cannot think of a better way to increase our collective resilience.

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