Tag Archives: Washington D.C.

National Capital Region: Social Media Summit

Post by: Kim Stephens

The National Capital Region is  hosting a social media summit today, July 19, 2012. I am more than privileged to attend, facilitate and present at this event. As of last count we have about 130 people scheduled to participate from across the region including local, state and federal officials.

The goal of the meeting is to “discuss, define and discover solutions for the use of social media during emergencies in the D.C., Virginia and Maryland area.”  We asked people about what they hoped to get of the meeting and there were varying responses, all with the word or concept of “learning” in them.

  • “I hope to learn how other organizations are using social media…”
  • “I hope to get ideas/information about how to use the tools to gain situational awareness”
  • I want to learn as much as I can!

One of the focuses will be on what we learned from the recent Derecho storm that hit this area pretty hard. Whether or not organizations were using social media for the first time or the 100th, there will be plenty of areas for reflection.

From my perspective, I will be using my 8 minute spark presentation to talk about lessons I personally learned just last week while helping facilitate a CERT training seminar for deaf,  hard of hearing, and interpreters on the Gallaudet campus in Washington, D.C. At the training, I presented a module on social media: I came away with a few new ideas and changed perceptions as did some of the CERT members–it was a great information exchange! Some observations and outcomes:

Chris Littlewood presents at the CERT training sponsored by ServeDC.

  1. Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals are very visual–ASL is, after all, a visual language. Therefore, the written word doesn’t carry as much weight as the signed word. Lesson: Response agencies should include as many pictures and videos as possible to communicate their message.
  2. Gallaudet is considering creating 1-2 minute protective action videos in  American Sign Language for each of the common hazards in DC. These videos will be available on YouTube. This also means other response organizations will be able to link to this content in Tweets and in Facebook posts–and even on their websites.
  3. Facebook is the platform of choice of most older deaf individuals–there were a lot of professors and educators in the room versus students; however, I was told that the younger deaf population does use Twitter. There initially was  a misconception that Twitter was only text and therefore, not as user friendly to the deaf community as Facebook–where videos and pictures can be easily posted. Explaining how hyperlinks worked helped ease that concern.
  4. Videos posted without adequate captioning are useless, annoying or both. If you do this you are sending a message to this community that states loud and clear: “We don’t care!”
  5. There are interpreters for the deaf throughout the DC metropolitan area that are ready, willing and able to help in a crisis. Why not pull them in to help with social media?
  6. If your response organization has a social media presence, market it to the deaf community. Don’t expect them to magically find your information–actively seek them out and encourage them to follow you.
Advertisements

American Red Cross Digital Ops Center: They are Listening

Post by: Kim Stephens

Some emergency managers are still struggling with understanding the value of social media. Even when talking with organizations that do have a presence, there is still some discomfort with  moving from purely pushing information to monitoring for information.  The idea that social media content coming from the public is not trust worthy, only full of rumors, and not valuable, seems to be an entrenched misconception.

The American Red Cross, on the other hand, has not only been a leader and innovator when it comes to using these tools to provide information to the public, but has also fully embraced the concept of listening via these platforms. This was on full display this week (March 7, 2012) when they unveiled their new Digital Operations Center at their Headquarters in Washington D.C. This “listening” center was donated by Dell Computers and Michael Dell proclaimed this as the “first ever instance of a [digital] monitoring center in the realm of humanitarian response.”

The equipment received a workout the week prior to the unveiling when tornadoes struck a wide swath of the mid-west.  Gail McGovern, the ARC President and CEO, stated that monitoring the social stream gave them actionable data. They were able to gain situational awareness regarding such things as announcements of volunteer opportunities as well as people’s immediate needs, including the need to find family members.  In other words, the new tools enabled ARC to quickly gather big picture data to understand what is happening on the ground. She discussed how quite a lot of the content on social platforms after a disaster is, what she termed, “Emotional data.” This, she stated, is quite actionable because ARC is then able to provide tips, comfort and information about where those individuals can find help, for example, directions to the nearest shelter.  “Providing emotional support is a big key.”

See this video below about the new digital ops center and tell me if this makes you reconsider whether or not your organization should be listening.

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.