Tag Archives: San Francisco

Emergency Preparedness, Web 2.0-Community Style

Post by: Kim Stephens

sf72Getting the public to pay attention to emergency preparedness information can be a challenge. Research in this area tells us that “community-based participatory approaches to designing and disseminating risk communication for at-risk populations, and offering messages in multiple modes that are locally and personally relevant, would have many benefits for strengthen emergency preparedness, response, and recovery for at-risk populations, but are currently underutilized.” Meredith, et al (2008).   Although social media has helped provide a participatory multi-modal approach, there are still many improvements that could be made.

San Francisco, with leadership from Alicia Johnson (@UrbanAreaAlicia) the city’s Resilience and Recovery Manager, is making huge leaps in providing personally relevant preparedness information with the revamp of their 72 Hours preparedness site SF72 or San Francisco 72 Hours. I should note that Alicia emphasized that the site is a team effort and includes the design and innovation consulting firm Ideo, @ideo; Rob Dudgeon, the Director of SF Emergency Services or @sfDEMrob; and Kristin Hogan or @kristinlhogan.

I spoke with an Alicia about the goals and direction this site will be taking. She stated that SF72 concept came from the realization that our current preparepdness messaging is not working.

“So much of what we do is based on individuals preparedness. But research from recent disasters has shown us that people prepare and respond as communities. You never recover from a disaster as an individual, you recover as a community.”

The new site is not quite finished at the time of writing. Once it is done and vetted with SF stakeholders, including the public, the plan is to replace the existing 72Hours.org,

3 Common Preparedness Messaging Mistakes This Type of Site Can Address

photo-91.  Too much information in a non-visual format. We live in an era of video and image communication, yet we continue to provide the public information in a heavy-text format. Public safety organizations are not alone in committing this error. For instance, my high school junior literally tosses college information mailers in the trash if they only include a letter and few, if any, pictures. Mailers that do have a lot of images, however, get placed on her bulletin board.  In terms of public safety,  I commend the new wave of  preparedness apps coming out of emergency management offices, however, quite a few of them look like the screen shot above. And although all of the information is complete, I have to wonder why the content wasn’t made more accessible, with icons or pictures for instance, especially since this particular page is tailored for people with special needs.

banner image

2. Not enough interactive content.  Providing a laundry list of protective action measures is not necessarily the best method to communicate this information.  More than likely it is not even read (see #1).  Even though a list may provide all of the correct content, active learning is way more fun, meaning it holds people’s attention. This increases the chance that the material is retained. The SF72 site embraces this active model, which is evident in the “Quake Quiz,” an interactive quiz that is not only very visual but interesting enough to hold the attention of kids and adults alike. Other apps, such as the game associated with the Disaster Preppers TV show, also provides an example of how preparedness content doesn’t have to be dry, but can actually be entertaining as well.


3. No (or not enough) emphasis on sharing. As the general public moves more and more towards openness this sometimes causes uneasiness in government sectors: sharing isn’t caring… it as a violation of the personal privacy protection act. However, asking people to share with their social networks how they are  preparing  is a great idea/best practice. Why? We know people will often respond more positively when asked to do something by a friend versus a government agency. (See the CDC’s 2012 Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Manual.)

Providing the opportunity for sharing is one thing that the SF72 site also does well. People are asked, for instance, to share that they took the quake quiz and even have access to a bit of code in order to place a banner on any website or blog (which is how I included the image above).  They also intend to include videos of people talking about their experiences during large and small disaster (e.g. a house fire) and how they were prepared, or what they would have done differently. This statement on the site demonstrates their desire to embrace the concept of community.

SF72 is San Francisco’s gathering place for emergency preparedness.
We believe in connection, not catastrophe. We believe in the power of many pairs of hands. We believe in supporting the city we love.

I’m looking forward to seeing the entire site completed.  Alicia also told me that once it is finished, it will be available to other communities to adopt as well, since they are doing the project in an open source format. The quake quiz, however, is a licensed product. If you are interested in more information you can reach Alicia via Twitter or provide a comment below.

Is your organization doing anything similar? Let me know.

Anaheim CERT to Monitor Social Media During a Disaster

Post by: Kim Stephens

It has been documented that government agencies often experience a 500% increase in the number of followers and “fans” to their social media sites during a disaster. Monitoring those sites and responding to requests for information can become overwhelming: at a minimum it is most certainly labor intensive. Emergency management organizations, both government and non-governmental alike, are starting to understand how enormous this task could be and are looking for innovative solutions to solve the problem.  Anaheim, California has turned to their CERT members.

This tweet by Craig Fugate is over a year old, suggesting that the concept of CERT members playing a role in monitoring social networks or even in reporting observations through those platforms, is not necessarily a new idea. The concept is built on the notion that these folks are “trusted agents,” already trained in basic emergency skills, and  known quantities by the response organization. However, I have yet to really see many CERTs move in this direction, making the Anaheim CERT a really interesting test case.  I interviewed the CERT coordinator in order to determine what was necessary in order to accomplish this goal. (I appreciate their candidness!) Below are the results from that interview.


Roles and Responsibilities: CERT volunteers already serve in a community outreach capacity by supplementing staff in the “hotline room” by answer questions on the phone. The concept is to extend these responsibilities to social networks. The social media monitoring volunteers will be used primarily to keep track of comments and social data posted to the communities’ social platforms. They will also be allowed to retweet (repeat a message on twitter) anything that has already been put out by the Public Information Officer (PIO).  They currently have 3 laptops dedicated for volunteers, loaded with an enhanced excel capability called “Pivot Table”. Pivot table will allow the digital volunteers to record the event and do real-time data-mining, including listing frequently asked questions, etc.  CERT members will be required to monitor the social stream in the EOC hotline room.

Training: The CERT coordinator is planning to do training for social media monitoring and use of the “pivot table” tool (she is planning to share this training with regional partners). The training  will include: hot-line room standard operating procedures; reporting protocols; rules regarding what they can and cannot say; and, potentially, will require participation in a monthly twitter chat. Volunteers will also be taught “how” to monitor including which search terms to use etc., as well as which platforms to monitor. However, volunteers will be given some latitude to keep track of all the platforms they see fit.  The training currently does not include a module on how to verify information, however, that is a consideration for future efforts.

Linking to Operations: Specifically, regarding reporting protocols and procedures, pertinent information the monitoring team discovers will loop back into the EOC planning and operations section via the PIO. Any life threatening information will be sent directly to the dispatcher and non-life threatening info will get written down on paper or in an email and is sent to the PIO to review then decide which section it should go to. Currently, CERT “digital volunteers” do not have access to WebEOC, but they have discussed granting limited access so that they can input the information directly. (The CERT coordinator supplied the graphic below.) She states: “Depending upon the platform, some steps may require modification.  For example individual [citizens] may post to YouTube which may require a response post or a comment directing individuals to a website or blog with more information. “  She indicated that a determination would also be made whether or not the YouTube video provided helpful content that should be disseminated using other platforms.

What concerns people? The biggest concern of emergency management professionals in Anaheim regarding this new monitoring program is liability: “What if messages are not addressed and then the agency gets sued?”

Thank you @AnaheimCERT for the interview and great responses.

Are you looking to do anything similar with your CERT? Please let me know.

[1] Stephens, Kim, “SMEM chat: Monitoring Social Networks—How do we Listen?”  March, 2011, https://idisaster.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/smem-chat-monitoring-social-networks-how-do-we-listen/.