Tag Archives: YouTube

#SMEM Challenge for 2013: Strategically Monitoring Social Media

Post by: Kim  Stephens

Eye on Flat Panel MonitorOne of the biggest #SMEM challenges for emergency management and public safety organizations is determining whether or not, and increasingly how, they will monitor social media. In the past year we saw a change in mindset: a desire to actively listen versus simply push content to the public. Yet, monitoring can seem like a daunting task.  During large-scale emergency events millions of new posts, pictures and videos  are added to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. every day. How can a small local public health, first response, or emergency management agency sort through all of that? In this post I will outline strategies I have seen employed to effectively deal with this seemingly insurmountable task.

Where do we start?

Numerous questions come to mind when considering monitoring social networks:

  • How ? What software do I need, if any? (And relatedly, how much will that cost?)
  • Who? Who will be doing this work?  Will this only be done when the  EOC is stood up and resources can be shared by all response agencies? or  Will resources be required to monitor social media all the time if we have social accounts?
  •  What is done with the information gleaned from monitoring social media? How is the information shared (if at all) with response partners when there isn’t an EOC or JIC?

Establishing objectives

Each of the questions above are dependent on the objective(s) established by your organization.  The first step is to determine why: Why are we listening? What is the expected outcome? Only then can you  decide what resources you will need, how you will share that information with response partners, and what tools are required.

Your emergency management organization might decide to specify a number of objectives. Some of the more common ones include:

  1.  To determine if the organization’s message is getting across or if conflicting information (rumors) is being conveyed: Are people  confused about what to do (e.g. how long to boil water)?
  2. To determine public sentiment regarding the organization or, during a crisis, about the overall government’s response effort: Are people angry about something that is happening?
  3. To determine the most commonly asked questions and concerns.
  4. To quickly answer direct questions, or questions directed at the community political leadership on topics that involve your organization: Are people asking the Twitter-happy Mayor when debris will be picked up in their neighborhood?
  5. To determine what other organizations are saying, in order to both ensure messages are coordinated, and to amplify mission related content.
  6. To determine the extent of damage and impact of the disaster event. (Advanced)

It should be noted that law enforcement officials might have completely different set of objectives. They might monitor social media to actively look for people (or evidence) from those who have been involved in a crime as well as to enlist their followers in helping them identify suspects. They could also monitor the accounts of a person that has been brought to their attention by members of the community (e.g. a person has been posting strange comments that point to criminal intentions). In this post, however, I will stick to emergency management concepts since that is much more familiar territory for me.

Low Budget Solutions

Of course, part of the strategy for listening or monitoring social media has to include determining who will be responsible for doing these tasks. I recommend you also read the post that describes VOST (Virtual Operations Support Teams) for some ideas on how you can expand your efforts when required. Nonetheless, there are many things that can be done by an organization to make monitoring social media a bit easier, especially if some of it is completed before a crisis.

The following simple steps are based on processes described by emergency managers who have made the most of the free tools at their disposal. Even though these items might seem like obvious courses of action, I have cited them here for a reason.    I have included some basic 101-type info since people often ask these questions.

1. Create Lists and Like Pages of Response Partners: It is important to know and keep track of what other response organizations are saying on social networks, even if (maybe especially if) they are in a neighboring county. If you and your neighbor put out conflicting content, believe me, the public will notice. (This happens in quickly moving events–road closures are a prime example.)

  • On Twitter, set up a list(s) of all “trusted sources” including government agencies, first responders, political leaders,  volunteer organizations and local news media–don’t forget to include federal agencies such as FEMA, EPA and HUD.  Twitter.com explains how to create a list in 4 simple steps.
  • Include social streams of all response partners on your website or Facebook page, so the public can easily find them as well. See a best practice example from Australia: Queensland Police Service Alert, which has the embedded Twitter feeds from their response partners organized by sector: transportation, power and water, etc.
  • On Facebook, “Like” all of these same organizations.

Coordinate Offline: It should be noted that in addition to doing the work online, a good practice is to have every government official responsible for posting to social networks  participate in recurring meetings to talk about strategies and coordination before a disaster event. (How can we ensure information is updated on our social media accounts, simultaneously? How can we share content/intel that we are seeing from the public ?) The speed of social media might require new, or at a minimum, faster coordination processes. 

2. Invest in a smart phone for the person monitoring social media: Smart phones are a great way to monitor your social media presence when you are away from a computer. Both Twitter and Facebook can provide smart phone notifications to the administrator every time the account is mentioned, replied to, re-tweeted, etc. You can also set up a way to receive notifications when other organizations post updates as well.

  • Twitter.com has a great help page on this topic.
  • Facebook has similarly helpful “How-To” page about how to receive push notifications on a mobile device. There is also information here about the Page Manager App that lets admins check on their Page activity, view insights and respond to their audience from their mobile device. This app is only currently available for iPhone and iPad.

3. Read

I once asked the social media manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency how he monitored the agency’s social stream, he simply stated: I read.  Surprisingly, keeping up with what is happening on social media does not necessarily take complicated software, especially if reading is done strategically.   In order to prevent being overwhelmed,  you can limit the content that you look at to some or all of the following:

  •  Read comments and questions directed to your organization. This step is probably the most important: if your organization is actively posting content, more than likely, people will be posting comments and questions…AND they will expect a response.  Reading comments and “@” messages will also allow you to gauge how your efforts are being received.
  • Read what is being posted by your trusted-sources on the list(s) you have created.
  • Read comments and questions posed from the public to your response partners and elected officials.
  • Read information based on keyword searches and hashtags.   This strategy involves searching for key words, such as the name of the event, in order to find pertinent content.
    • During an active event, people often post pictures and video to Twitter (more so than other platforms) and mention the location and /or name of the town. (For specific instructions see Twitter advanced search and the “How-To“).  It is important to note, however, that any early pictures should be treated cautiously. Some folks think it is quite funny to post fake images.
    • Possible search terms: name of agency, name of event, name of municipality.

4. Actively ask for information

There is nothing wrong with asking your followers or the general public for information via your social networks. People often provide valuable situational awareness information to you anyway, for example, posting on your Facebook page: “There are power lines down on Elk Road.” Some organizations have tried to give the public a way to provide information in a more structured way. Good examples of this are the not-so-new USGS’s earthquake detection program  “Did you Feel it?” and the recent Fairfax County Hurricane Sandy Crowdmap that allowed people to post their observations.

Soliciting information is almost the opposite of  “data mining.” Data mining involves  automated computer processes  intended to make sense of or find patterns in vast amounts of content posted to social networks (see this post by Patrick Meier for more info). I suspect that this process will be one of the hottest topics for 2013 as more of these tools (discussed in this previous post)  come online. Nevertheless, if your organization is simply trying to keep up with mentions and comments, then advanced software is probably not necessary…although highly coveted. Coordination and collaboration with your response partners,  however, continue to be some of the best tools in your toolbox.

If you are still reading, let me know if you have established objectives or listening strategies.

Note: A majority of this content came from a post I did for WRHSAC.org.

Social Media Accessibility Toolkit: New from Emergency 2.0 Wiki

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

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Post by: Kim Stephens

One question that inevitably comes up when discussing social media with emergency managers  is the problem of accessibility: Is the content on social media available to everyone in my community? In turn, community members with disabilities want access to content on social networks and want to use these tools during a crisis. Although there are answers about how best to address these concerns, before today, solutions were not in one handy location. That has changed with the launch of the Accessibility Toolkit on the Emergency 2.0 Wiki (full disclosure–I was involved with planning the launch of this site). The wiki is a voluntary initiative of the Gov 2.0 QLD Community of Practice in Australia, launched in December 2011.

The purpose of the toolkit is stated clearly on the site:

The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit was developed to empower people with disabilities to use social media for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. This toolkit was developed in response to the fact that not all people with a disability are able to access life saving messages delivered through social media due to the accessibility challenges that the tools currently pose.

International Collaboration

The kit was pulled together with a team, they call  a reference group, which included individuals from Australia, the United States and New Zealand. Dr. Scott Hollier, one of the group’s members as well as an Advisory Committee Representative at Media Access Australia, provides some context for why the group felt this tool was necessary:

“We’ve witnessed from recent disasters that social media has the potential to save lives, but people with disabilities often have difficulty accessing important messages as the social media platforms are inaccessible. For example, the main Twitter website can’t be easily read with a screen reader, the device that reads out information on a screen for people who are blind, but important emergency information can be accessed by using an alternative site such as Easy Chirp to read tweets,” he said.  “As people tweet in real time, an accessible app such as Easy Chirp can provide people who are blind with immediate notification of when a fire starts or when flash floods hit a town,” said Dr Hollier.

Information for People With A Disability

The toolkit includes a list of tips, resources and apps that are intended to assist people with a disability to overcome accessibility challenges of social media. Easy Chirp, for instance, is described and linked to, along with information about and links to emergency apps, such as those intended for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing that vibrate and flash when sending emergency alerts. The wiki also includes emergency preparedness YouTube videos that either use sign language or are captioned.

Information for the Professional Communicator

For the emergency sector, government, community, media and business professionals there are practical guidelines listed that will help them make their social media messages more accessible.  For example, information is provided about how to use apps to add captioning on YouTube Videos for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

One of the best aspects of Emergency 2.0 Wiki is that it is a free volunteer-based resource. Their goal is laudable:   “…to build resilience by empowering all sectors of the community with the knowledge to use social media and networks in emergencies.” The fact that they are working to accomplished this goal via international collaboration, knowledge sharing and crowdsourcing locally and globally, is the cherry on top!

If you have any questions about the wiki simply leave a comment here or contact Stephanie Jo Kent, Working Group on Emergency Interpreting at Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc; Founder, Learning Labs for Resiliency.

Using YouTube to Communicate Preparedness Messages

Post by: Kim Stephens

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

When communicating life safety and preparedness information online, it is really important to remember what retailers have already learned: video sells your message much better than text. The article “10 Web Video Stastics You Need to Know” details some interesting trends in how people are consuming web-based and mobile content. Five key points:

  1.  Visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average (Comscore)
  2.  59% of senior executives prefer to watch video instead of reading text. (Forbes)
  3.  50% of smartphone users watch web video on their mobile device. (Google Blog)
  4. Video and other multi-media product viewing options were rated more effective than any other site initiatives in an Adobe survey of almost 2,000 interactive marketers. (Adobe)
  5. Video in email marketing has been shown to increase click-through rates by over 96% (Implix Email Marketing Trends Survey)

What does that mean for the public sector? It means that we need to be more creative in content production and distribution. This, of course, is already happening. A simple search on YouTube for “emergency preparedness” yields 17,900 results. The content of these preparedness videos, however, does not always compel viewership. To be frank, if your video is lame, no one is going to watch it. Content is king–even with video.

One of the best videos I’ve seen to date is the recent Department of Homeland Security grant funded project produced by the city of Houston, titled: Run, Hide, Fight, which describes what citizens should do in the event of an active shooter in an office building (or any building). The release, or at least circulation, was very timely–just after the movie theatre shooting in Colorado. The best thing about the video is that the viewer feels genuine concern about the actors. I watched the entire 5:55 minutes to see who survived.

I did find the content, however, to miss the mark in some respects: they completely forget people with access and functional needs, both in terms of production and distribution. The video is not captioned nor is there a script readily available, and furthermore, they depict every person in the video as young and able-bodied. What about a person that does not hear that a shooting is happening in the building? What about a person that is in a wheelchair and therefore can’t run, hide, or fight easily?  They also disabled the comment section on the YouTube platform, which is unfortunate, in my opinion. How else will they learn what people thought about the content?  Nonetheless, the video is compelling. It made me consider my own exit and/or hide plan.

Does your agency have any videos ready for production? Let me know!

National Capital Region: Social Media Summit

Post by: Kim Stephens

The National Capital Region is  hosting a social media summit today, July 19, 2012. I am more than privileged to attend, facilitate and present at this event. As of last count we have about 130 people scheduled to participate from across the region including local, state and federal officials.

The goal of the meeting is to “discuss, define and discover solutions for the use of social media during emergencies in the D.C., Virginia and Maryland area.”  We asked people about what they hoped to get of the meeting and there were varying responses, all with the word or concept of “learning” in them.

  • “I hope to learn how other organizations are using social media…”
  • “I hope to get ideas/information about how to use the tools to gain situational awareness”
  • I want to learn as much as I can!

One of the focuses will be on what we learned from the recent Derecho storm that hit this area pretty hard. Whether or not organizations were using social media for the first time or the 100th, there will be plenty of areas for reflection.

From my perspective, I will be using my 8 minute spark presentation to talk about lessons I personally learned just last week while helping facilitate a CERT training seminar for deaf,  hard of hearing, and interpreters on the Gallaudet campus in Washington, D.C. At the training, I presented a module on social media: I came away with a few new ideas and changed perceptions as did some of the CERT members–it was a great information exchange! Some observations and outcomes:

Chris Littlewood presents at the CERT training sponsored by ServeDC.

  1. Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals are very visual–ASL is, after all, a visual language. Therefore, the written word doesn’t carry as much weight as the signed word. Lesson: Response agencies should include as many pictures and videos as possible to communicate their message.
  2. Gallaudet is considering creating 1-2 minute protective action videos in  American Sign Language for each of the common hazards in DC. These videos will be available on YouTube. This also means other response organizations will be able to link to this content in Tweets and in Facebook posts–and even on their websites.
  3. Facebook is the platform of choice of most older deaf individuals–there were a lot of professors and educators in the room versus students; however, I was told that the younger deaf population does use Twitter. There initially was  a misconception that Twitter was only text and therefore, not as user friendly to the deaf community as Facebook–where videos and pictures can be easily posted. Explaining how hyperlinks worked helped ease that concern.
  4. Videos posted without adequate captioning are useless, annoying or both. If you do this you are sending a message to this community that states loud and clear: “We don’t care!”
  5. There are interpreters for the deaf throughout the DC metropolitan area that are ready, willing and able to help in a crisis. Why not pull them in to help with social media?
  6. If your response organization has a social media presence, market it to the deaf community. Don’t expect them to magically find your information–actively seek them out and encourage them to follow you.

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.

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/.

Joplin Missouri Survivors reflect on use of Social Media

English: Boone County Fire Protection District...

Image via Wikipedia

This post is a story of the “Joplin Tornado Information” Facebook page and a reflection of what volunteers accomplished in the aftermath of the F5 tornado that roared through their town in 2011. Although much of the town was torn apart, the human connections actually grew– in part because people were able to use information communication technologies to come together virtually, as well as in person. This volunteer effort demonstrates what can be done with hard work, a few ground rules, and social media.  They reached out to me to share their story.  They also developed a “Social Media for Disaster Reovery Field Guide” which I will put up in a separate post.

Background

“Joplin Tornado Info was created and managed by 23 year old Genevieve Williams, Neosho, Mo. less than two hours after the May 22nd tornado. JTI was honored as one of seven nominees for a 2011 Mashable Award in the Social Good Cause Campaign Category.”

Guest Post by: Rebecca Williams

“ST. JOHN’S HAS BEEN HIT THAT’S ALL WE KNOW FOR SURE”.

May 22, 2011 7:26 p.m.

First Joplin Tornado Info post

We heard the KSN news anchors beg people to take cover, and then take cover themselves…It was obvious Joplin was being hit by a tornado.  Neosho and Joplin are close-knit communities and only 16 miles apart. How bad was it in Joplin?  A friend that works at St. John’s Hospital posted on Facebook it had been hit. How could we find accurate information about what was going on?  We searched the internet and found virtually nothing of help. We don’t remember for certain how it happened but within the hour at my coffee table using an iPhone, Joplin Tornado Info was born. When the page was started we had no idea we had just signed on as a communication link for one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.  By sunrise the morning of the 23rd, the breadth and scope of what had happened became clear.

Across town, unbeknownst to us, a friend Joel Clark  launched  joplintornado.info website. None of us can remember exactly how we connected and merged JTI Facebook with joplintornado.info but it happened within the first 48 hours.  People ask what was different about the Joplin response and what led FEMA to applaud the rescue and recovery. I would say the can-do and help-your-neighbor attitude of the people of the area, the on the spot response of area faith based organizations, the overwhelming support of the people of the region and the nation, and the presence of social media were deciding factors. This is the story of one social media outlet:  Joplin Tornado Info.

The tornado hit at 5:41 p.m. At 7:36 p.m. Joplin Tornado Info Facebook page made its first post, went viral, began connecting dots between needs, resources, transportation, storage and dispersal and had become a trusted, timely news source.

The first days and even weeks after the tornado remain a blur, we have pulled out the worn legal pads that were JTI, (as it came to be called in those early days) and watched YouTube videos of the KSN tower cam footage and Red Cross volunteer Marie Colby’s video among others and talked about how it was at JTI after the tornado,  to remember. Almost a year has passed and there are still not words to express what happened during Joplin’s early recovery. The dazed look on the faces of survivors is haunting.

We quickly reached over 49,000 fans. It all happened so fast and just as fast there were people helping us.  Several groups and individuals such as the group of people that went to the computer lab at Crowder College and continuously posted critical information to JTI were unofficial admins of the page and vital to our efforts.

From the beginning we relied on the JTI community to post and repost for the good of the Joplin effort. Jennifer and Michelle both reached out from Alabama that first night to help. Volunteer admins signed on and others just took it upon themselves to help. JTI was a community page and early on people responded. Within hours we also had admins and or points of contact from all of the utility companies.

Relief organizations, Churches and news sources began posting on our site as well. We made every effort to read and answer every post. JTI pages moved so fast at one time that it was necessary to repost vital information often or it became lost in the Facebook newsfeed. We monitored all available news sources and reposted to JTI.

We didn’t sleep much during those first few weeks. We devoted every waking minute to JTI and coordinating efforts to connect the dots for the next two months. We were not alone in this; many people in our area put their lives and livelihoods on hold to do what they could for Joplin.  There was such an overwhelming response to the need in Joplin and supplies came in so fast that FEMA the Red Cross, and other major organizations quickly became overwhelmed. Through JTI overflow storage was coordinated by Royce at the Galena High School Football Field. Royce became a vital part of JTI as we routed donations to area storage and dispersal locations. Solace, a youth based church on the fringe of ground zero with an average age of 24 and attendance of less than that went from evening service to relief center in the blink of an eye. People of the area did what they could when they could. Back in the day, if your neighbor’s barn was on fire you dropped what you were doing and ran to help your neighbor put the fire out. Joplin’s barn was on fire and area people responded as they had for generations.

In the beginning many of the community posts were people searching for missing loved ones, asking about shelter and water. One memorable post was the joy we had notifying people that huge water trucks were pulling in to memorial hall, to bring containers and get what you need. Water was off throughout Joplin and these trucks were such a blessing. JTI was not about fluff. Many survivors were literally hand to mouth. As we posted, food, water, bandage, clothing locations people texted our posts to survivors at ground zero who relied on cell phones texts for all outside communication. We accepted no donations, endorsed no specific church, charity or organization. JTI is a community page with no affiliation or loyalty to any group or entity. JTI made every effort to post timely, concise, accurate, unbiased information.

My daughter, Genevieve and I came to realize that in this region none of us are more than a degree of separation from someone who lost their life in the tornado. We all know someone who died personally or we know someone who knew someone. When locals speak of the tornado now, we don’t ask “were you affected”? We have come to realize that this was a regional tragedy we were all affected.

Our mourning for those we lost will go on as long as we do. Out of our grieve and necessity the tornado aftermath has given birth to change, innovation, invention, entrepreneurship, volunteerism and philanthropy that many of us were unaware was within us. Folks in the area take the tornado and recovery in stride and continue to look for ways to help those in need. Joplin and area folks are reaching out today to our neighbors, Branson and the several other communities hit by the Leap Day Storm, doing what we can and lending our experience. We are working in conjunction with David Burton, University Mo.-Extension, JTI admin since nearly the beginning from David had the foresight to set up 3 tornado info facebook pages in advance. One of these pages was Branson Tornado Info which by sad coincidence was put into use in the Leap Day Storm and quickly went viral with over 16,000 fans in 48 hrs.  A free downloadable PDF “Social Media Use For Disaster Recovery-a field guide” is being released and will be linked on the JTI page.

As of this writing, the beginning of meteorological spring March, 1, 2012,  JTI has had­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ 87,112,786 post views from over 20 countries and languages. After peaking at just over 49,000.  Nine months after the tornado  JTI retains 47,754 of its original fans despite continued multiple daily posts. Our remaining 47,000 plus fans have a combined social media reach of 10 million people.