Maryland Emergency Management Agency Plans for #SMEM

Post by: Kim Stephens

Maryland Emergency Management Agency

Maryland Emergency Management Agency (Photo credit: Maryland National Guard)

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (@MDMEMA on Twitter)  has recently taken their social media communication’s strategy to new heights–even incorporating a module about the tools into their Public Information Officer training.

I had the opportunity to meet the MEMA  Social Media Coordinator, Kasey Parr, when we both served on a panel at the Social Media Week in Washington DC (a big thank you to Michael Clarke of International Media Solutions for organizing our session). I  asked Kasey in a written follow up for a little more detail about their social media plans and current processes. Below is the result of the Q&A with both Kasey and Ed McDonough,  the MEMA PIO.

Q1. What type of Social Media content is included in the PIO training?

A1: Kasey: The first training we conducted on “Social Media in the JIC” was right before Hurricane Sandy, forcing me to cut down on my slides because of time constraints on Ed and myself. The presentation given before Hurricane Sandy included:

  • Why do we use social media during emergencies?
  • What are the benefits?- This will now include a case study of the Derecho/Hurricane Sandy
  • Our level of engagement/How we use SM
  • VOST concept and how we can create a model with MD social media managers
  • Procedures during an event- 12 hour shift roles and responsibilities
  • Monitoring/responding (what it is, how we do it, etc)-

A1: Ed — I would add that we have been teaching about the use of social media as part of our instruction of FEMA‘s Basic PIO (G290) and JIC/JIS (G291) training for several years. We discuss the various platforms for SM, how to get buy in from supervisors and/or elected officials, stress the differences and similarities between SM and the traditional media, and emphasize that it is a two-way information flow that also can help operations folks with tactical decisions.  (You may be familiar with some of the ways Bill Humphries of LAFD has used Twitter to gain operational information.)

Maryland Emergency Management Agency

Maryland Emergency Management Agency (Photo credit: Maryland National Guard)

Q2. How is SM incorporated into “normal” communications and messaging processes?
A2: Ed — During our “sunny day” periods, we regularly use social media to engage the public about preparedness information, regularly monitor Facebook and twitter for information about weather, traffic and other information in and around Maryland and from emergency management agencies around the country. Unlike traditional media, where we are usually just pushing out information, we use social media to actually engage the public with contests and such to get immediate feedback. We also are in the process of making sure that our social media policies are incorporated into our public information SOPs, so any state public information officer working in our Joint Information Center will understand the role of social media in emergency management.

Q3.  Do you talk (in your training) specifically about the transfer of the intelligence gathered from monitoring social networks to decision-makers? 
A3: Kasey–We do address social media monitoring in our training. As a part of the procedures in the JIC the roles and responsibilities of the monitor are outlined. These responsibilities include alerting the team of any relevant trends that may need to be addressed and by whom these issues need to be addressed according to the urgency of the matter. Some issues can be easily solved with the PIO, relevant state agency reps, or they [may] require the attention of the Senior Policy Group.

Depending on the nature of the information that has come through, we may need to get the Governor to address it in his next press briefing, have the PIO construct a press release, or create a social media messaging strategy centered on the intelligence or trend to eliminate confusion. After Hurricane Sandy, we walked away with a lot of lessons learned as far as media monitoring is concerned. In my opinion, the social media monitor has the most important role during a disaster. This is one part of our social media program that I would like to build out for a disaster or emergency situation.

A3: Ed — I would add that we are exploring the use of crowdsourcing programs that could work in conjunction with our GIS staff to give operational staff in the state EOC better situational awareness during an activation. This will become even more important for counties and cities, as they are on the front lines of response.

Thank you so much Ed and Kasey! Let me know what types of questions you might have for them or other agencies.


9 responses to “Maryland Emergency Management Agency Plans for #SMEM

  1. Reblogged this on Emergency Services Corps and commented:
    Twitter offers great potential for rapid and integrated response to disasters.

  2. Pingback: “Maryland Emergency Management Agency Plans for #SMEM” #VOST | Kc5fm's Blog

  3. Good stuff. What strikes me most regarding social media for emergency management is how easy it should be for emergency management organizations to do it. If local government executives move past the message control to allow a facebook page and give responsibility to the emergency managers for its content, then all sorts of good things can happen.

    To add to the conversation, I thought I’d share this. I saw an eye-opening presentation (to me at least) a few weeks ago at the NY State Emergency Management Association’s winter conference. Shannon Fisher from the Department of Emergency Services in Orange County, NY talked about her experiences in setting up and running social media communications during Hurricane Irene. Once she got the support from her management, she quickly built a following, received crowdsourced information about the storm, and was able to coordinate grassroots volunteer activities all through her organization’s facebook page. The information she got back from the community was specific, time relevant, and centralized in one location. There was no need for a special app that scrapes twitter and youtube feeds because she got the same information simply by asking for it through facebook. Her presentation can be found here:

    I really enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work.


    • kim26stephens

      Thanks John! I look forward to seeing the presentation by Shannon Fisher. Thank you so much for including it. You would be surprised how difficult it actually is for some EMs to jump into the social media world. However, I do feel that we are on the downhill side of the mountain, in terms of adoption and acceptance of this medium as a method of communication before, during and after a crisis.
      Thanks for your comment and your interest in the blog!

  4. Pingback: Maryland Emergency Management Agency Plans for #SMEM « UASI – The Urban Area Security Initiatives Blog #UASI

  5. Reblogged this on Public Safety Technology and commented:
    Sharing this blog post by Kim Stephens about the amazing work being done by the new(ish) SMEM person at MEMA. Very proud of how you have developed things at MEMA Kasey!

  6. Pingback: Weekly Roundup of Awesome Links: Week of April 15th 2013

  7. During Hurricane Sandy OCEM had over 1.2 million hits on our Facebook page in a single day – more than three times the entire population of Orange County, simply because it was the only source of information for so many people. NEVER underestimate the importance of this tool – and I would be more than happy to help share our information to help others in our field develop this tool for their own use. County Executives need to understand that if you trust me to help lead your community through a disaster, you need to trust me to put up a road closure post! Controlling the message limits your access to the public and their access to you. Stop trying to tell them what you THINK they need to know and listen to what they are TELLING YOU that they need to know.

    Shannon Fisher
    Orange County Emergency Management

    • kim26stephens

      Wow Shannon–thank you so much for that completely candid comment. I could NOT have said it better myself!

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