FEMA’s Preparedness Information Could Include More “How-To’s” Regarding Social Media

Post by: Kim Stephens

Fellow blogger, John Solomon, has been gearing up for the September, 2010 National Preparedness Month by writing a series of posts about FEMA’s efforts.  He reports that FEMA is incorporating new media and technologies into their monthly activities, in particular by launching the new mobile application: m.FEMA.gov. Solomon also mentions an Emergency Plan for individuals and families FEMA developed along with the Ad Council that has a text or email feature.

“This application is designed to aid you in assembling a quick reference list of contact information for your family, and a meeting place for emergency situations. …you can paste it into email or text documents you can send to others or save on your computer.”

Although this effort is laudable, why not remind people to enter this information into their cell phone and then create an emergency contact “group” (most phones allow for this). Once the group is created one text can be typed and sent to everyone in the group. Or, why not ask the cell phone companies to publish how to make these groups on each of their different cell phone models for use in emergency situations.  Groups, of course, are quite easy to create on Twitter and Facebook, and are also available as a mobile application on smart phones, but FEMA’s preparedness site is completely mute regarding these new technologies. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=facebook&iid=8921402″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8921402/facebook-executives/facebook-executives.jpg?size=500&imageId=8921402″ width=”234″ height=”176″ /]

Furthermore, the “Ready Business” page that details how to write a crisis communications plan was last updated February 6, 2008. Technology changes rapidly, and this recommendation seems antiquainted:

“Set up a telephone call tree, password-protected page on the company website, an email alert or a call-in voice recording to communicate with employees in an emergency.”

Instead companies, even small companies, can turn to social media to communicate to both their employees and their customers. Many free or inexpensive options are now available:  SMS text messaging;  Yammer, which is a closed network for a subscribing company; Twitter and Facebook,  just to name a few.

Moreover, the business crisis communication’s plan provided by FEMA doesn’t include any advice on new technologies that are available to assist in keeping in touch with employees after a disaster–(for example,  Safe and Well developed by the American Red Cross or other web-based tools now available to track people). Companies could also employ a closed-group service such as Yammer, for this purpose.

Business continuity consultants are beginning to understand the power of social media, and FEMA really is trying to amp up their  social media efforts,  yet it might take a while before it filters into every part of the agency.

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