Tag Archives: Web 2.0

Social Media: A tool to reach the Access and Functional Needs Community

Post by: Kim Stephens

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

As a part of a current project I have found some great content that references the use of social media as a tool to reach vulnerable populations.  There are four reports I’d like to highlight that address this concept–some from the point of view of the citizen, others from the point of view of the first responder. All of the reports remind us that a one-size-fits-all approach for communicating is not a successful strategy in this day and age where people get to pick how they find information. If you are reluctant to use social media because (as I’ve heard stated) you don’t think your community uses the tools–think again!

1. Social Media: A Tool For Inclusion was written by Anne Taylor with funding from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Horizontal Policy Integration Division (HPID). The report focuses on how people with access and functional needs can use social networking to overcome social isolation. This has  implications for emergency managers in the sense that the tools can also be used as a way to not only find vulnerable populations in your community, but also to develop relationships. She states:

Informants (study participants) indicate that Web 2.0 applications offer enormous possibilities for the disabled who may be marginalized by lack of mobility, vision, hearing or other disability that makes it difficult for them to participate in the civic, social, cultural or work‐related activities of mainstream society. The evidence is strong that the internet and social media, with the aid of assistive technologies, are improving the ability of many disabled people to participate more fully in their society. Members of the deaf community, for example, are said to be huge users of social media and video blogging. The Deaf Canada Conference that took place in June 2010 was supported by a lively 636‐member Facebook page. There is even a Canadian Deaf Native Facebook page. A 2009 Canada‐wide survey of over 700 self‐described disabled students with a mean age of 18 revealed that they engage in social media 12 hours a week for non‐school related activities and six hours a week for school‐related activities using, on average, between one and two types of specialized software. The most popular sites are Facebook, YouTube, MSN/Windows Live Messenger and Skype.

2. A report entitled Emergency Notification Strategies for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Planning Project, developed for the Western Massachusetts Homeland Security Advisory Council, also lists social media as an option for communicating, specifically with the deaf population during emergencies.

Research and outreach for this project revealed that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may rely more on social media options than traditional media for information during an emergency. There may be several reasons for this including limited closed-captioning on television broadcasts, limited ASL translation, and lack of real-time information updates. As such, social media options are gaining popularity for obtaining information, not just throughout the disability community, but for the population-at-large.

3. Emergent Use of Social Media: A new age of opportunity for disaster resilience (2011). This is an article is by MENoji E for the National Center for Environmental Health Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC. The article discusses how social media tools can be used to help people cope with disaster. They  use the term “vulnerable populations” very broadly: anyone suffering from stress after an event. However, the benefit of being connected would translate to the access and functional needs population as well.

“Social media may also offer potential psychological benefit for vulnerable populations gained through participation as stakeholders in the response. Disaster victims report a psychological need to contribute, and by doing so, they are better able to cope with their situation. Affected populations may gain resilience by replacing their helplessness with dignity, control, as well as personal and collective responsibility.”

4.Communicating with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit. What I like most about this toolkit, even though the main focus is not social media, is that their suggestions emphasize relationship building–something that social media can help accomplish.  They state that local emergency managers should “Understand the local community sufficiently to decide what information is important and how best to communicate it in fully accessible formats so that people are informed, responsive, and motivated.”

I also like this sentiment, which I hear stated repeatedly by my colleagues who are seeped in  social media and emergency management:

“Encouraging individuals to act during emergencies requires communicating with them through multiple channels.

  • These channels depend on trusted relationships built over time, so they are well established in times of crisis.
  • A pre-crisis network of communication channels can carry messages across barriers and create a safety net that prevents especially vulnerable people from missing access to transportation assistance in emergencies.”

If you know of other research that mentions social media as a way to connect with  vulnerable populations before, during and after a crisis, please make note of it in the comments section.

Emergency Management Resource Site Needed for Social Media Implementation

Post by: Kim Stephens

I have come to the conclusion that the emergency management community needs a website to assist them in their efforts to implement social media campaigns.  Although I am quite proud of this blog and its list of resources, I find myself envious of the social media site built by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The mission of the site, as stated on their webpage:

…to build the capacity of law enforcement to use social media to prevent and solve crimes, strengthen police-community relations, and enhance services. The IACP will be creating practical tools and resources to enable law enforcement personnel to develop or enhance their agency’s use of social media and integrate Web 2.0 tools into agency operations.

By highlighting the service this center provides, I hope to draw the attention of maybe IAEM, NEMA or even the ICMA to try to develop a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA to create a similar resource for the emergency management community.

Information and how-to’s regarding the implementation of a social media presence are available for local OEMs if they search for them. However, there really  isn’t one central location, not even the First Responders Communities of Practice (FRCoP) site, where a local agency can go to find everything from best practices, to a hyperlinked directory of every OEM in the country using social media. The FRCoP is more of a forum where first responders can discuss problems and highlight best practices, but since it relies on input from the community itself, it does not represent a complete compendium of information.

The first “getting started” page of the IACP site is a good example of why the EM community should be a little green with envy. For instance, under the Policy Development tab, there are model policies, legal considerations and guidance; under Strategy Development, agencies are encouraged to determine their goals and objectives before implementing a SM presence;  and of course, there is a tab for tutorials and guides on how to set up SM pages.

Although you can peruse the site yourself, I’d like to highlight another feature I found interesting, the topics page. This page provides timely information about 16 different topics, each with a description and then three tabs:

  1. Case studies
  2. Current news, and
  3. Publications

Publications include such items as fact sheets. For example, under the alerts & notifications topic there are fact sheets on twitter and facebook in printable, PDF formats.

One last page I’d like to highlight is the page on Case Law. Again, this page is presented in a searchable format with hyperlinks to full cases once you find the information you were looking for.

Although the emergency management community could turn to the IACP site for guidance, I believe there are issues specific to the EM community that they don’t address (crisis mapping and ICS, for example).

My hope is that those with an interest in social media and emergency management can make some noise for either an agency or an association to copy this very useful resource.

DHS/FEMA Using Web 2.0 to collaborate, share, listen and learn

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Image by jim.greenhill via Flickr

Post by: Kim Stephens

Through the use of Web 2.0 tools and social media, DHS and FEMA are trying to increase communications and collaboration with the state and local emergency management community and the general public as well. A lot has been written about FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate’s commitment to social media. It seems that he mentions the importance of the medium in most of his speeches. This week FEMA went “all-in” with the publication of their own blog. The first post on Dec. 14th was from Craig himself. He stated:

At FEMA we have a Facebook pageTwitter pageI tweet and earlier this year we launched our first-ever mobile website, but what we didn’t have was a blog. Well, now that we have one, you’re probably wondering what you can expect. Plain and simple, this will be another tool we’ll use to communicate and let you know what we’re up to. This won’t be another way to put out our press releases – this is a way to communicate directly with you.

The blog also features all of the posts from the Administrator in a tab called Craig’s Corner. Yesterday he wrote about the White House Tribal Nations Summit.

But I think comments from citizens and how FEMA addresses them will be one of the most interesting aspects to watch. They do have a comment policy which states:

This is a moderated blog. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly “off topic” or that promote services or products or contain any links. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. (emphasis added)

But based on the comments already on the post, it is obvious that they will not be dis-allowing critical comments. One commentator stated in reaction to Craig’s post about the tribal summit: “Where was FEMA when the Sioux had a massive power outage due to an ice storm?”  This could serve as an example for local governments trying to engage the public through open forums but fearful of criticisms that might be leveled at their agencies.  In order to have an open dialog, it is necessary to listen to both criticisms and complements.

The second way DHS and FEMA are engaging the emergency management community is through a new web portal called First Responders Communities of Practice. DHS has created a somewhat secure environment– registered users only– where response community members can collaborate to share ideas, lessons learned and best practices.

It won’t surprise you to know that I am most interested in the community of practice called “Making American Safer Through Social Media”. Listed there are social media policy examples; reports, analysis and papers; related news articles, and more. Just the other day I found an excellent report called Social Media on Incidents, Some Lessons Learned by Kris Ericksen.

I think the take-away here is that we all have a lot to learn, and the best way is by sharing and listening. I’m glad DHS and FEMA are providing an environment to do just that.

Thoughts on the signficance of Web 2.0

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

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Posted by Claire B. Rubin

A few weeks ago, I read an article titled Researchers Claim Web 2.0 is a Massive Leap Forward in Evolution; it’s actually a press release from a conference newswire of the Future Research Group of the World Mind Network in Geneva.  This is a rather bold statement, as is the name of the think tank.  I have been intrigued with some of the points made since I first read it.   The article stimulates, poses some negatives, and ends on a hopeful note for more exciting times in the future with the use of new, powerful technologies.  A few quotes from that article are worth pondering:

…this [Web 2.0 development has enormous implications for business, culture, government, education, the Environment and sustainability – and yet almost no one realized this, because we’re too close to the situation to view it comprehensively.” Those who do realize it will be able to change society… because the power of today’s web to connect brains instantly ensures that ideas can be refined, shared, experimented with, improved, and perfected at warp speed, by hundreds of people in dozens of countries.

…according to the researchers, we have been given tools in the last five years which are …potentially revolutionary.”  The article then goes on to mention the prospects for Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Wikipedia, Google, and Twitter.

Finally, this important question is raised and answered, in part: Why do most human beings not sense the enormous power of their new tools?  Their replies include “ most web technologies are marketed as toys.” and “…most of the early adopters of Web. 2.0  have largely been young people, who tend to be more interested in entertainment than in changing the world.” “And the trivial and in some cases harmful uses they make of the new technologies do not inspire their elders to explore future. Additionally, very few people of any age consistently ask what the new tools can do IN COMBINATION.”

We welcome your thoughts on this topic.

Survey Results of Federal and State Use of Social Media

Two different organizations recently surveyed State and Federal Government employees and contractors in order to determine adoption, application, expectation and challenges regarding the implementation of social media.  Market Connections, Inc. released a report entitled Social Media in the Federal Community. The other report, entitled Friends, Followers, and Feeds, was written by the National Association of State CIOs Social Media Working group (NASCIO).

NASCIO’s survey had a high participation rate with 79% of states’ CIOs responding. The biggest challenges the states listed with regard to implementing social media included security, liability, privacy, records maintenance/management and terms of acceptable use. On a personal note, visiting with local Emergency Management Agencies I also find these concerns to be the biggest impediments. Legal concerns are troubling to Emergency Management Agencies in particular since they could potentially involve a life-threatening scenario. For example, if someone was unable to dial 911 due to lack of connectivity, but had enough of a signal to send a tweet or a text, would emergency services be liable if they did not respond? (If you know the answer please comment.)

Another interesting finding from NASCIO were the responses regarding “next steps”. Not surprisingly, a large number of respondents acknowledged the need to integrate mobile social media into their communications strategy.

  • “The growth of online government in the future will increasingly be in the mobile environment (emphasis added), and it is expected that state governments will be exploiting this extensively through social media channels. A growing number of end-users already look at their governments almost exclusively through the three and a half inch screens of their smartphones, and this trend will only continue. States will be expected to know how they look and perform through that lens.”
  • “Utah state government has moved quickly in the areas of integration and aggregation and incorporated social media and other Web 2.0 technologies prominently in the major website design of Utah.gov in 2009. (Go see their site, it’s very nice!) Their connect.utah.gov page offers mobile applications and geo-IP location-aware technology to personalize each user’s experience, and dozens of interactive services are provided to make Utah.gov more convenient for Utah citizens and businesses.”

The survey of Federal Agencies and Federal Contractors was conducted by Market Connections, Inc.. They also found security concerns to be the top challenge regarding adoption.  Government contractors, on the other hand, seemed to understand how social media can help  with “building the company’s brand” with 86% percents seeing this as the main benefit of increasing their SM presence. Sixty-one percent of contractor respondents indicated that they plan to increase their budget for SM in the next 12-18 months. This can be compared to the Federal responses where only 22% indicated they plan to increase their use of social media in the next 12-18 months. It seems contractors are starting to see SM as a necessary part of their business plan while some federal employees still seem to view the entire endeavor with suspicion.

A large portion of respondents in all the surveys indicated that one of the challenges to adoption is a “lack of resources to maintain presence”. Anecdotally, I have also found this to be true at the local level: more often than not there is no staff position called “social media guru”. This may change in the future, but for a lot of offices one “lucky” person gets to do the job in addition to their normal duties.

Social Media and Web 2.0 Standard Operating Procedures: Guidance Material

Since the use of social media and or Web 2.0 (we really need a better lexicon here) is so new, some organizations might not yet have standard operating procedures developed regarding either implementation or overall strategy. Some of those procedures may include: workflow, managing comments, managing content,  statements of purpose, measures of success/metrics, or even which new media to engage in.

However, if you are responsible for implementing new media and not sure where to start, I recommend the blog Social Media Governance which has put together a wonderful database of social or new media policies (currently 154 total). The list includes government/non-profit policies from the American Red Cross to Walker Art Center; but the list also includes policies from businesses, the healthcare industry, as well general guidelines and templates. You can search for a policy related to your industry with the handy pull-down menu.

There are even policies from international agencies, for example there is a handy Social Media 101 guide from Australia. And although some of the information would not apply in the U.S. (e.g. government codes of conduct) there are a number of helpful tips that are universal.

The General Service Administration’s Social Media Handbook can also be found there and is quite useful, however, local governments might find information from “The County of Orange, California” more applicable.

Most policies will deal with pushing information, if you know of any organization that has policies regarding receiving info from the public through social media, please let me know.

I also want to highlight the recent GAO Report: Challenges in Federal Agencies’ Use of Web 2.0 Technologies, July 22, 2010. The report summary:

Federal agencies are using Web 2.0 technologies to enhance services and support their individual missions. Federal Web managers use these applications to connect to people in new ways. As of July 2010, we identified that 22 of 24 major federal agencies had a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

They then list the challenges federal agencies have faced regarding use of Web 2.0 technologies:

Privacy and security:

Agencies are faced with the challenges of determining how the Privacy Act of 1974, which provides certain protections to personally identifiable information, applies to information exchanged in the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking sites. …

Records management and freedom of information.

Web 2.0 technologies raise issues in the government’s ability to identify and preserve federal records.

The use of Web 2.0 technologies can also present challenges in appropriately responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests because there are significant complexities in determining whether agencies control Web 2.0-generated content, as understood within the context of FOIA.

Federal agencies have begun to identify some of the issues associated with Web 2.0 technologies and have taken steps to start addressing them. For example, the Office of Management and Budget recently issued guidance intended to (1) clarify when and how the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 applies to federal agency use of social media and Web-based interactive technologies; and (2) help federal agencies protect privacy when using third- party Web sites and applications.

Of course this was written for the federal government, however, some of the information is probably applicable to states and localities.

Related Articles

Review of “Dynamic Technologies for Smarter Government”

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

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Post by Guest Blogger: Art Botterell

Power is a Conversation

To its credit, consulting firm KPMG doesn’t claims that its new whitepaper “Dynamic Technologies for Smarter Government” is a scientific study.  It’s a marketing document targeted on the firm’s government clients.  As such it can’t be expected to point a critical finger at its customers’ standards and practices. That said, this report does a good job articulating, albeit parenthetically, a couple of the deep challenges of government in a Web 2.0 world.

“While sharing data is a growing trend for today’s government entities, in order to significantly improve government operations, changes should be coupled with new approaches for collaboration about solutions.”

One might question whether there’s as much actual growth in data sharing in government as in talk about it.  But the net effect (pardon the pun) is to make greater collaboration desirable, if not inevitable:

“In the 20th century, public sector agencies operated under the specialized ‘expertise’ model of the industrial era.  Agencies were often self-contained groups managing business processes and mission activity in a silo…Co-design and delivery of policies, programs and services with citizens, businesses and civil society provides the potential to tap a broader reservoir of ideas and innovative solutions.”

No mention of the dilution of official control as stakeholders use social media to implement some of those solutions for themselves. “Co-design,” maybe, but no fundamental change in the role of official agencies. Gently, toward the end of a proffered framework for agencies “responding to forces of change” the authors invoke the term “organizational change management,” thus keeping the customer comfortably in the driver’s seat:

“Organizational change management is a key component of implementing any of these innovations.  These changes represent a shift in the attitudes of people and who they interact and share information in the internet-enabled world.  They imply a willingness to accept some risk in order to collaborate and interact.”

One might call that masterful understatement. Ultimately the writers cast all this as a generational trend:

“The future generation of government workers is much more comfortable with collaborative online problem-solving than previous generations.”

And that generalization, unencumbered by evidence or qualification, is an example of the difference between marketing and science.  It sounds like it might be true, but is it really?  Does it matter?  Or is it more important that the authors sound like they can offer an antidote to uncertainty?

We’re just starting to see genuine data-based research on how social media actually work, for example a number of papers from the recent ISCRAM conference in Seattle.  And of course it’s early days yet, so we can’t assume that things will work the same way in the coming year as they were in the past.

In the meantime, a lot of what seems like authoritative documentation in this field right now is marketing, not science.  Which is fine as long as we don’t lose track of the difference.