SMEM chatting about Target Capabilities

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

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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.

5 responses to “SMEM chatting about Target Capabilities

  1. An interesting discussion. I have to agree with Cheryl though. SM is a new tool not an end in itself and those of us who are passionate about it need to grasp that fact. In EM we should focus on end results and not technologies that will change and evolve over time. My friend and colleague Art Botterell has an excellent model that demonstrates that why our management and policies always lag behind technology. We need to remember that it’s not all about the technology.
    With regards to the EOC, while I concur that there should be monitoring of SM at all levels, the two places where I would definitely focus my attention would be in the PIO and the Plans Section. These are the EOC staff charged with providing situational awareness, media monitoring and rumor control. The use of crowd sourcing and aggregating software means that Plans can develop and disseminate better situational information. There should be a strong link between Plans, which has or should have the most accurate information, and the PIO who is monitoring media of all types and identifying perceived problem areas and rumors. These mechanisms already exist and SM could enhance them. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – we just need to figure out how to make it work better.

  2. Lucien, thanks so much for you comment. I’m glad to have your contributions on SMEM. I agree, and integrating SM into existing processes will also aid adoption. I’m not sure, though, based on lots of folks I know in EM if they will ever get used to the idea of crowdsourcing. I’d like to see that work, but my guess is that most would only be comfortable with computer software solutions to address the problem of data analysis and aggregation. We’ll see, though!

  3. I agree that we should always be focus on people not technology, but I think our industry’s consideration of social media must be different than thinking of it as just the next “cool” piece of software or equipment developed. Most communications experts consider social media a revolutionary change in how we communicate regardless of the systems that are utilized. I’ve even heard it put on par with the inventions of the printing press, radio, and television. Emergency management must embrace the how and why of social media (rather than the individual systems) to ensure we can continue to efficiently and effectively engage and respond to people who are impacted.

  4. Adam,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree that it is a big change, especially if you don’t just use it for “pushing” information but also for actually engaging the community. I believe it will require new processes.

  5. Pingback: Social Media and Emergency Management « Geospatial Science and Technology Policy

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