Tag Archives: Clarence Wardell

Bloggers collaborate to comment and expand on the SMEM camp report

Post by: Kim Stephens

Last March the first “Social Media for Emergency Management Camp” took place in conjunction with the mid-year NEMA conference in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. There were many objectives for the camp, but the overarching goal was simply to gather people together who were interested in discussing the impact social media and emerging technologies are having on the response community as a whole. Heather Blanchard, in a stroke of genius, recommended that we enlist the aid of a research team, led by Dr. Clarence Wardell of CNA’s office of Safety and Security, to document the effort.  CNA, is “a non-profit institution that conducts high-level, in-depth research and analysis to inform the important work of public sector decision makers”.

The team listened to our discussions as we organized the camp, captured the data from the camp itself (including tweets from actual and virtual participants), and then researched the topic in-depth, as evidenced by their 74 cited references.  The result of their effort is an in-depth analysis on the role of social media in the realm of emergency management and its potential as a transformative technology. The 46 page report is entitled: “2011 Social Media + Emergency Management Camp: Transforming the Response Enterprise“.

In the report, Dr. Wardell et al. outline three major findings from camp discussions and catalog six recommendations they felt would need to be implemented in order to close the gap between  the current state of social media usage for emergency management and the desired state. The authors do not necessarily identify who should be closing this gap–in some instances the “who” could refer to researchers (e.g. “establishing a baseline on social media usage via a survey of domestic EM agencies”); in other instances “who” could be the SMEM community itself.

There are several of us who blog about SMEM. We have created a collaboration to divide up each of these findings and recommendations and examine them in detail.  Look below to find links to these posts.

Three Key findings:

  1. Eric Holdeman (@Eric_holdeman),  of Emergency Management Magazine’s Disaster Zone, discusses “[T]he need—akin to FEMA’s whole community initiative—to redefine the domestic response enterprise to be more inclusive of all response stakeholders.”  
  2. Cheryl Bledsoe (@CherylBle) on sm4em.org takes on another finding: “The need to identify the relationships between system inputs and the effect of those relationships on the transformation of the response enterprise.”
  3. Gerald Baron on the Crisis Comm blog talks about “[T]he need to define future goals for a domestic response enterprise, particularly as it relates to the integration of new technologies and their associated effects.”
Six Recommendations:
Using social media for emergency response

Image by BC Gov Photos via Flickr

1. Jim Garrow (@jgarrow) at “The Face of the Matter”  talks about demonstrating value. The recommendation from the report states that we need to
“Expand prior work on social influences on citizen preparedness and response behavior to include the effect of social networks when coupled with various messaging strategies. Presumably, the ability to “view” the behavior of others in a given social network will have an effect on citizen decision-making beyond that of messages delivered through traditional media. Concrete data on the extent to which this is true and can be measured stand to bolster the case for increased investment.”
2. Bill Boyd (@chiefb2) at “It’s Not My Emergency” discusses the decidedly sexy topic of “Operational benefits” which is also related to demonstrating value. From the report, we need to
“Demonstrate the value of integrating social media into operations by capturing improvements in the speed and effectiveness of response. Such a demonstration is critical to gaining buy-in. One area where these improvements can potentially be seen most clearly is in real- time disaster relief routing and logistics decision-making. Information gathered through social media platforms could help lead to the development of a set of meaningful metrics as well.”
3. Patrice Cloutier tackles the recommendation that SM should be used more during exercises and real-world events. His post discusses the use of the medium in Canada and in recent events, including Hurricane Irene. The report recommendation states specifically:
“Continue efforts to integrate social media tools and data into response exercises.These efforts are critical not only to understanding the value of social media, but also to creating a level of comfort in their use by emergency managers. In addition, efforts to capture the role of social media and the response ofVTCs through post-event analysis and after-action reports should be funded and formalized before an event occurs.
4. I’m discussing the need for knowledge sharing and education.
“Make the continued creation and refinement of training and knowledge-sharing opportunities for emergency management practitioners a priority.The 2011 SMEM Camp format was an experiment that was well received by the majority of participants.”
The other two recommendations  include
  • “Baseline Establishment: Conduct a survey of domestic emergency management agencies to provide a baseline of social media and mobile technology capabilities (e.g., How many agencies in the United States are currently attempting to use social media tools, and of the ones that are, how are they using them?).” and
  • “Reliability and usefulness: Underlying the issue of social media’s value are issues of data reliability and usefulness. Determine thresholds for data corruption and general reliability in response, as defined through post-event analysis, because they are essential to obtaining the buy-in of leadership at all levels of government.”

Be sure to join the #smemchat today (11/11/2011) where we will discuss these findings and celebrate the one year anniversary of that tag on twitter. The tag has been a great place over the past year for the emergency management community to convene to debate this topic in-depth on a daily basis. Read Cheryl’s great post about the history of that hashtag. 

SMEM Report Recommendation: Education and Knowledge sharing are needed.

Post by: Kim Stephens

The CNA report entitled “Social Media + Emergency Management Camp: Transforming the Response Enterprise” was written by Dr. Clarence Wardell and Yee San Su  in order to document the findings from the first-ever SMEM camp, and almost more importantly, to explore how social media and emerging communication technologies are changing the way we disseminate and receive information before, during and after a crisis. (See this blog post by Heather Blanchard of  Crisis Commons’ that summarize the report and the SMEM effort in general.)


The authors offer 3 key findings and six recommendations for moving forward if we would like to see widespread adoption of social networking by the emergency management community. One of the six recommendations is the need for continued education and knowledge sharing. Specifically the authors state that we need to

“Make the continued creation and refinement of training and knowledge-sharing opportunities for emergency management practitioners a priority. The 2011 SMEM Camp format was an experiment that was well received by the majority of participants.”

As the authors indicate, in this early stage of the use of social networking as a tool for crisis communications, there are still many unsettled questions that can pose significant challenges to adoption. This includes a lack of clarity with regard to laws, policy and guidance. The authors state, that we are in a “Wild West situation, as the available technology has surpassed the rules and guidance that are currently in place.”

However, with that being said, there are many organizations that are using these tools in creative ways and we can measure their success  based on their own stated goals and objectives. Even though there are no formally recognized and accepted  “best practices” we are certainly starting to understand the value these organizations are gaining from using these tools. Informally, many of us, including myself, often find organizations that are doing great work in this area and promote these efforts as best practice examples. As Dr. Wardell inferred, highlighting these successes will help us create “buy-in and subsequent adoption and investment [from other] organizations.”

Knowledge Sharing

As forerunning agencies use social networking tools on a daily basis and during real-world disaster events, they are also learning effective strategies. The sharing of that knowledge is invaluable.  Nonetheless, as the technology and adoption rate matures,  I do expect that we will also need to have better answers to the following questions:

  • What does an effective public safety SM presence look like?
  • What metrics can be used to determine success?
  • How can we measure impact–e.g. what are the “outcomes” versus the “outputs”?

Furthermore, knowledge sharing does not necessarily have to take place in a conference or a formal setting. Hundreds of emergency management professionals engage in knowledge sharing on this topic on a daily basis on twitter via the #SMEM hashtag.  There are also many emerging sources of information, including blogs and wikis specifically for this topic. For instance, see the Emergency 2.0 Wiki from Australia whose stated purpose is to “share and advance knowledge, by providing best practice guidelines on how to utilize social media in all phases of emergency communications.”  These guidelines, when fully fleshed out, will provide an amazing resource for all public safety organizations. 

Discussion Points

In the meantime,  below I list some of the more important questions most people raise when discussing social media usage for crisis communications. As you will notice, these discussion points relate to processes, internal procedures, goals and objectives, NOT how to use specific tools. The social networks may change (e.g tumblr versus facebook) but organizations can build structures, policies and procedures that enable them to engage on any social platform. (Each of these subjects are addressed, to some extent, in the CNA report.)

  • Why should public safety organizations use these tools? (e.g. Is there a broad use of social networks in your community? Does your local news media expect to receive information via social networks? )
  • What are your organization’s stated goals for public outreach (no matter what tool you utilize) in each phase of the emergency continuum? This will ultimately help determine if the effort is successful.
  • What resources (human and technical) are necessary to implement a social media campaign during each phase of a crisis?
  • What resources are available to augment your staff in a crisis–e.g. virtual support?
  • Who in your organization should be using the tools on a daily basis and who should be using the tools during a crisis?
  • How have other public safety organizations structured themselves to rapidly update SM content in a crisis? How have they integrated these efforts with other agencies and channels? How does this relate to the Incident Command System?
  • How can public safety organizations collect, sort, and verify data from social networks to provide real-time situational awareness?
  • What policies need to be changed or adjusted in your organization in order to allow for personnel to use these tools?
  • What is the policy regarding publicly provided content? This relates to both storage of the data for FOIA purposes, and how to deal with comments, questions and concerns raised through these platforms.
  • What are some effective strategies for reaching the intended audience with preparedness, response and recovery messages? (Strategies do change during each phase.)

As a side note, the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) has contracted with Mantitou, Inc. to develop social media training. The company is in the early data collection stage and has asked the SMEM community to assist them in their effort by providing the following:

  •  best practices in utilization of social media in all phases of emergency management;
  •  examples of measured impact from use of social media;
  • challenges and solutions or approaches to implementing and advancing use of social media within emergency management organizations.

(If you are interested in providing content for this effort let me know and I can pass that info along to their team.)

To view the CNA  report and its resources you can click to http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/SMEM_Initiative or the below links: