Tag Archives: CERT

Anaheim CERT Plays a Social Game

Post by: Kim Stephens

acertMary Jo Flynn, the Assistant Director of the Emergency Management Division in Anaheim California, consistently surprises me with her creative use of social media and new technologies to engage CERT members. For instance, just a couple of months ago she Tweeted about how she integrated the use of QR codes into a CERT exercise.
Ms Flynn promoted the idea on her “CERT Exercise Idea” Pinterest page and indicated that the QR code exercise was played by adding images, descriptions and/or video to the links in a type of scavenger hunt where each decision got volunteers to the next QR Code Station. What a great way to add a layer of interest!

Social Media Exercise

This month she is taking the concept of adding game-type elements into training to a new level. Intuitively we all know that the best way to learn something is by actually doing it. For this exercise, the learning objectives Ms Flynn would like to accomplish are for CERT members to not only understand social media but also to increase their competency in the use of the tools. In order for team members to learn how to use social networking in a real-world, face-paced environment she has created a game of sorts for them to participate in during the California State CERT conference. The game/exercise requires participants to use social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instragram, and points will be awarded based on activity level, measured by their use of live-Tweeting, Facebook posting, Retweeting, and getting ReTweed, for example. Additionally, a team element has been incorporated–which is important, people tend to participate more if they feel they are a part of a group. She  created this video (embedded below) in order to prepare CERT members to participate as soon as they arrive at the conference.
I asked Ms Flynn for more information about the “how and why” of the exercise and she provided me the written answers below. I wanted to post her responses in full so that others could emulate this great example.
Nature of the exercise:
This is a dynamic exercise in which conference participants will utilize social media to generate live social web data.  Their entries simulate making contact with family members or posting pictures as neighborhood situation status updates.  A second part of the exercise includes the identification and analysis of the web data simulating a virtual EOC environment. While the exercise may seem like nothing more than a scavenger hunt or silly networking game, it is an intricately layered opportunity to build team work, practice technical skills, collect and share information and be that much closer and ready to deploy for an actual event.
Why I pursued this exercise:
I’ve been looking to plan small exercises locally for my team that utilized live data but without the fear of sparking controversy or panic when using simulated data in a public forum and I believe as emergency managers we must first do no harm in social media.  I’ve not been satisfied in adding “Exercise” or “Drill” to a live tweet for fear it would be eliminated on re-tweet and lose effectiveness and potentially lose trust from my audience.
Why Now, how this came about:
I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.  My colleagues using the #smemchat have been talking about exercising using events like the Inauguration or Superbowl to practice safely with live data.  I wanted something smaller scale.  When approached by California Volunteers to speak at the conference, I inquired as to whether or not they would promote live tweeting.  Once we agreed on using live tweeting and a scavenger hunt as a mechanism to encourage networking, the rest of the exercise fell into place.  Since then I’ve just been having fun refining some of the “injects” like the video.
Why this exercise is important to me:
Lately I’ve become concerned that the Social Media Emergency Management community has only encouraged adoption of social media without providing enough detail in training, exercising and strategic planning.  I believe we will continue to face challenges from opponents [people who don't believe social media is important] if we don’t also demonstrate the ability to train and exercise in such a manner as to build community trust.
I’m happy that we can accommodate so many pieces of the puzzle and pull together such a strong national VOST [Virtual Operations Support Team] along with local volunteers and conference attendees to hopefully see success through this exercise.
What to expect after the conference:
I’m a very big believer in capturing lessons learned and I’ll be incorporating feedback into an After Action Report and sharing with Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS).
Thank you Mary Jo! If you have any questions for her, she is on Twitter @AnaheimCERT or @MaryJoFly.

Anaheim CERT to Monitor Social Media During a Disaster

Post by: Kim Stephens

It has been documented that government agencies often experience a 500% increase in the number of followers and “fans” to their social media sites during a disaster. Monitoring those sites and responding to requests for information can become overwhelming: at a minimum it is most certainly labor intensive. Emergency management organizations, both government and non-governmental alike, are starting to understand how enormous this task could be and are looking for innovative solutions to solve the problem.  Anaheim, California has turned to their CERT members.

This tweet by Craig Fugate is over a year old, suggesting that the concept of CERT members playing a role in monitoring social networks or even in reporting observations through those platforms, is not necessarily a new idea. The concept is built on the notion that these folks are “trusted agents,” already trained in basic emergency skills, and  known quantities by the response organization. However, I have yet to really see many CERTs move in this direction, making the Anaheim CERT a really interesting test case.  I interviewed the CERT coordinator in order to determine what was necessary in order to accomplish this goal. (I appreciate their candidness!) Below are the results from that interview.

Anaheim

Roles and Responsibilities: CERT volunteers already serve in a community outreach capacity by supplementing staff in the “hotline room” by answer questions on the phone. The concept is to extend these responsibilities to social networks. The social media monitoring volunteers will be used primarily to keep track of comments and social data posted to the communities’ social platforms. They will also be allowed to retweet (repeat a message on twitter) anything that has already been put out by the Public Information Officer (PIO).  They currently have 3 laptops dedicated for volunteers, loaded with an enhanced excel capability called “Pivot Table”. Pivot table will allow the digital volunteers to record the event and do real-time data-mining, including listing frequently asked questions, etc.  CERT members will be required to monitor the social stream in the EOC hotline room.

Training: The CERT coordinator is planning to do training for social media monitoring and use of the “pivot table” tool (she is planning to share this training with regional partners). The training  will include: hot-line room standard operating procedures; reporting protocols; rules regarding what they can and cannot say; and, potentially, will require participation in a monthly twitter chat. Volunteers will also be taught “how” to monitor including which search terms to use etc., as well as which platforms to monitor. However, volunteers will be given some latitude to keep track of all the platforms they see fit.  The training currently does not include a module on how to verify information, however, that is a consideration for future efforts.

Linking to Operations: Specifically, regarding reporting protocols and procedures, pertinent information the monitoring team discovers will loop back into the EOC planning and operations section via the PIO. Any life threatening information will be sent directly to the dispatcher and non-life threatening info will get written down on paper or in an email and is sent to the PIO to review then decide which section it should go to. Currently, CERT “digital volunteers” do not have access to WebEOC, but they have discussed granting limited access so that they can input the information directly. (The CERT coordinator supplied the graphic below.) She states: “Depending upon the platform, some steps may require modification.  For example individual [citizens] may post to YouTube which may require a response post or a comment directing individuals to a website or blog with more information. “  She indicated that a determination would also be made whether or not the YouTube video provided helpful content that should be disseminated using other platforms.


What concerns people? The biggest concern of emergency management professionals in Anaheim regarding this new monitoring program is liability: “What if messages are not addressed and then the agency gets sued?”

Thank you @AnaheimCERT for the interview and great responses.

Are you looking to do anything similar with your CERT? Please let me know.


[1] Stephens, Kim, “SMEM chat: Monitoring Social Networks—How do we Listen?”  March, 2011, http://idisaster.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/smem-chat-monitoring-social-networks-how-do-we-listen/.