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 page, Twitter page, I 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.
FEMA/DHS and many local and state jurisdicitions are making great strides to 1) implement social media (noun) tactics to distribute information; and 2) work through the policy/privacy issues that create barriers. What is more challenging is creating a social networking (verb) atmosphere that is truly interactive and seeks some level of consistency in approach – dare I say it…a standardized framework for how the public can contribute to the dialogue and share photos, images, videos, eye witness reports, geotags, etc. Otherwise, the public will need to opt-in or follow many different local, state and federal agencies and NGOs in order to piece together situational awareness and then have to determine where to try and post their information. What we need is a forum/site at local area / jurisdictions that aggregates the relevant content about an incident and provides opportunities to veiw. search and contribute multimedia formats.
Great insight. Are you following the SMEM hashtag on twitter? I also assume you are familiar with “tweek the tweat”.