Post by: Kim Stephens
During this past week’s social media and emergency management chat (which, by the way, had an amazing group of folks participating and I was the moderator) we discussed whether or not it would be a good idea to integrate social media into the national target capabilities list (TCL) and/or the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP). According to Scott Gauvin, a chat participant and member of EMAP, they are currently in the process of updating the standard and soon it will be open for public comments (so it was a good chance to discuss the issue). Follow @EMAP_US for more info. Some background info on the TCLs:
The Target Capabilities List describes the capabilities related to the four homeland security mission areas: Prevent, Protect, Respond, and Recover. It defines and provides the basis for assessing preparedness. It also establishes national guidance for preparing the Nation for major all-hazards events, such as those defined by the National Planning Scenarios. The current version of the TCL contains 37 core capabilities.
It seems social media would fit into both the areas of communications as well as community preparedness and participation.
The Emergency Management Accreditation Program, or EMAP, is a voluntary review process for state and local emergency management programs. Accreditation is a means of demonstrating, through self-assessment, documentation and peer review, that a program meets national standards for emergency management programs.
EMAP was created by a group of national organizations to foster continuous improvement in emergency management capabilities. It provides emergency management programs the opportunity to be recognized for compliance with national standards, to demonstrate accountability, and to focus attention on areas and issues where resources are needed.
The standard includes Crisis Communications, Public Education and Information. Scott suggested that there are a total of 12 standards that social media could be applied. I also asked about using the medium as a way to expand regional collaboration, and some agreed that it could aid communications between agencies. He indicated that regional collaboration would fall under the requirement of “working with stakeholders”.
Pascal Schuback, from King County, WA made a great point: “SM would be strong if regional, which would reduce lots of complexity and confusion. Consistent messaging is critical both pre & post events”. @Jack4cap seized on this concept and suggested that it should be used in/by the Regional Planning Councils.
I asked: Is there a way to separate SM and data collection or are they too integrated? Schuback again answered with a great assessment, “SM is in incoming and outbound streams that can serve both communications and data at the same time.” Currently social media is considered solely a function of ESF 15–external affairs–e.g. pushing information, but the concept of pulling information e.g. gaining situational awareness, from social media has not yet been widely adopted. As Patrice Cloutier stated “every section of the EOC should monitor SM to respond to false information, but also to mine situational awareness/COP data.” And, the interesting part is that you don’t even need to participate in social media to monitor social media. MDeyerin stated that its no different than data collection from other sources, just another platform. However, some noted that it is kind of different–“you have a chance [with social media] to determine tone, sentiment and message reach.” Others pointed out that SM data collection does require a new set of skills, “but its not different than data collection done previously.”
Another great point is that we were all thinking of social media in terms of a response, Patrice reminded us that it is useful for preparedness and recovery as well. Lloyd Colston stated “I would add social media to the EM performance grant under planning or mitigation as public outreach.”
Cheryl Bledsoe, however, stated that she struggles with the idea of incorporation of social media into its own standard. “Have we ever added ’email’ in this way?” She listed a set of tasks for SM: “use it to build relationships, connect with peers, connect with local community, communicate, and listen.” The @awareforum thought SM should be tied into existing governance policies and standard operating procedures. So, in general, the consensus was that social media shouldn’t have its own standard, but should be incorporated into existing processes–“not an end of itself”.
This brought us to a question of measurement. The target capabilities list contains metrics: how do we measure success of SM? (Not, according to some, by the number of followers or re- tweets!) Can success be measured by the amount of impact? E.g. by the level of community involvement: better preparedness, more volunteers for response, quicker recovery? Fire Tracker stated: “If people are listening to the message, changing behavior and helping each other out, then its a win.” Cheryl stated: “We must measure in terms of publicly seen outcomes and not tool-specific ones.” In other words, are more people prepared, not, how many times did you tweet today?
With regard to incorporating SM into training and exercise plans, Pascal stated that using social media in community preparedness on a daily basis helps train people on the tools and could help the exercise process develop ( a statement borne out by experience). Other suggested that exercise planners should turn off everyone’s phones during an exercise and make participants communicate through social platforms–especially since they have proven to be some of the most resilient forms of communication in recent disasters.
But in general, what I learned from the chat: Don’t make social media its own critical task but incorporate it into existing goals, objectives and capabilities.
- Pierce County Emergency Management Achieves National Accreditation (kitsapsun.com)
- FEMA chief says economy adds to storm challenges (sfgate.com)