National Preparedness Month–Using Social Media to Engage Your Community

Post by: Kim Stephens

The role of the social media for crisis communications is becoming more accepted by the emergency management community with each subsequent disaster event. Social media were the talk of the town after the recent East Coast earthquake when they proved to be the most reliable way to check on friends and family, the Federal Government even asked people to use text or social media to communicate in lieu of voice. Hurricane Irene is also starting to look like one of the most tweeted disasters in recent U.S. history. But how can we leverage the power of the medium during the decidedly less sexy preparedness phase–even when there isn’t impending doom on the horizon?

Several Emergency Management Agencies are starting to understand that they can facilitate preparedness, especially for no-notice events, by creating games with the objective of increasing citizen participation.   Games for emergency preparedness have several advantages:

  1.  People learn information in a format that is fun but also challenging enough to be engaging, therefore holding their attention for a longer period of time.
  2. By playing a game quantitative data can be obtained regarding knowledge retention of the information and/or learning objectives; and, potentially, a record of the physical execution of specific activities.

There are already a few examples of games for emergency preparedness from complicated computer software games to simple check-in type apps on smart phones, to cooking competitions with items found in a survival kit. Cheryl Bledsoe has a list on sm4em.org of four such examples in place for the September National Preparedness Month:

I’d like to add one more example,  “Surburban Storm Troops” a contest in Brisbane, Australia. Local government has teamed up with the Energx  company, enabling them to provide tangible prizes, including five trailers “packed full of gardening equipment worth $5,000 each”. The contest objective is to encourage people to organize their street in order to help ensure family, friends and neighbors stay safe this summer. Community groups can also register to participate as well. Although participants are encouraged to be creative, suggested activities range from helping those that might not be able to help themselves to clear damaged tree branches; to swapping contact details; to holding a BBQ or sausage sizzle which would help create awareness and allow people to get to know the neighbors.  The social media component comes into play because people are then asked to send in pictures or videos of their activities which will be posted on the Energx facebook page: winners are chosen from those submissions.

We have only begun to tap the power of social networks for this purpose. The tools allow us to unleash our creativity in ways we never envisioned sitting in classes for our emergency management or public administration degrees. If your organization is doing something interesting, please let me know.

3 responses to “National Preparedness Month–Using Social Media to Engage Your Community

  1. A great piece with lots of useful links. Thanks for putting it together. It’s by building on a base of accepted practices that we’ll move the yard stick forward and finally move into the age of “How should I use SM in my emergency management program?” instead of still hearing “Why should I use social media?” ….

    Informative as always.

  2. Thanks Patrice!

  3. Very helpful article thank you

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