30 Reasons to Use Social Media in an Emergency #smem



1. It’s real time

2. It’s self correcting

3. It instantly connects you to millions of people around the globe.

4. It never sleeps.

5. It connects you to hundreds, if not thousands, of relief agencies.

6. It connects you to thousands of emergency response professionals.

7. It's almost always at the scene of an emergency when it happens – or it’s there moments afterwards.

8. It let's emergency responders monitor actual conversations at the scene of the emergency in real time

9. It provides numerous, real-time reports on the effects of the emergency.

10. It provides real-time photos of the effects of an emergency.


11. It provides real-time videos of the effects of an emergency.

12. It provides numerous, real-time reports on the success or failure of relief efforts.

13. It provides real-time photos of the success or failure of relief efforts.

14. It provides real-time videos of the success or failure of relief efforts.

15. It takes away much of the guesswork of emergency response.

16. On Twitter, hashtags let emergency responders, those in need of relief, relief workers and volunteers focus their listening and conversations to streamline the process of providing assistance when and where it is needed most.



17. It can provide real-time injury/casualty reports.

18. It can give real-time information on missing, separated or found emergency victims.

19. GPS capabilities can let rescuers know exactly where victims are.

20. GPS capabilities, as well as information from conversations shared, can help with crisis mapping.

21. Listening to social conversation can provide critical information on developing crises and permit the introduction of information within the same networks that may defuse a crisis.

22. Armies of volunteers stand at the ready to assist in the sifting of information.

23. You don't have to worry about matching or changing radio frequencies. (Not to worry, Twitter users know to turn to Facebook when the “fail whale” appears!)

24. The public already turns to social networks when an emergency occurs; they’re already there listening and communicating when emergency response professionals are ready to communicate.

25. It’s a powerful way of communicating emergency preparedness information to a vast audience of listeners from an incredibly diverse demographic spectrum.

26. Numerous, well-established accounts with scores of followers can be tapped to help curate critical information and pass it on to millions (Naysayers, please revisit point 2.)

27. The vastness of social network usage lets information be targeted as well.

28. You can tap into nearly any resource in a single tweet.

29.  Twitter Lists can be used to identify particular sources or resources.

30. It's easy to use….


I’d love to see this list expanded so that I could provide an updated post and a more complete list. Please share in the comments additional reasons you many think of to use social media in an emergency.


(Also, if I write a updated post, I‘ll be sure to share who suggested any additional reasons!)


Thanks.


And please join me on Twitter:  

@CrisisSocMedia  and  @GlenGilmore

Glen Gilmore served as Mayor and Public Safety Director of New Jersey's eighth-largest city when it became of the focal point of America's Anthrax Crisis.  Gilmore was dubbed a "national hero" for his crisis leadership by The New York Times.  He also served on the Board of Directors of a University Hospital and as an instructor in Crisis Leadership with the National Emergency Response and Rescue Center with Texas A&M University.

Related Readings

"Twitter 911" - A Proposal



How NOT to Use Hashtags & RTs in a Crisis


 Social Media & Emergency Response Lessons from a Pioneer

26 comments:

chiefb2 said...

It can provide a platform of comfort for those facing the unknown during crisis.

Good list G2!

GlenGilmore said...

Thanks, Chief! Nice addition.

I kind of figured it would take a first responder to get the ball rolling here! Hoping others will follow your lead.

Always be safe, Bill!

webmaster said...

Glen, i enjoy your writing however i'd like to clarify one of your points.

"It let's emergency responders monitor actual conversations at the scene of the emergency in real time"

Twitter is not and never should be the first channel for rescue services. Individuals should contact local emergency services for their local community. Rescue services DO NOT monitor twitter for emergency response.

GlenGilmore said...

Thanks, Webmaster, I appreciate your comment. As I wrote my points, I did, of course, consider many caveats to go along with each one, but decided against including them as my goal was to create a lean and readable list, that would give people a better understanding of how social media can and is being used in emergencies. I did, however, hope that comments to this post would fill in such details.

While I wholeheartedly agree that "Individuals should contact local emergency services for their local community" first when confronted by an emergency, using 911 if they can, the reality is that in major crises, placing a telephone call to local emergency services may not be an option. In such instances, social media becomes a lifeline.

Readers should also be aware that while emergency services have the "ability" to listen to conversations occurring on social networks at the scene of a disaster, it would be a dangerous mistake to believe that such networks are being monitored by emergency professionals for emergency response.

I am, however, among those who hope this will soon change. There are many emergency scenarios where sending a tweet to an emergency service might be safer for an emergency victim (e.g., a hostage) to make than a phone call.

But how could emergency response agencies that maintain, for example, a Twitter account, ever hope to monitor such messages? Ask Zappos, McDonalds or Dell. I'm not being facetious. Social networks have become the new call center for business, I'm confident that our emergency agencies are astute enough to begin to integrate social media emergency monitoring into existing call centers.

What about false reports? The medium doesn't matter: the law is the law. A false alarm should be punishable under the law.

Martha Giffen said...

I like the ideas presented here because in am emergency, sometimes it will help with calmness just to know there are other people out there. All good ideas!

GlenGilmore said...

Excellent point, Martha.

And with all the calamity our world has seen in recent months, I still worry that we are overdue for a pandemic -- something that would overwhelm every government and demand the assistance of every citizen. Mutual aid and encouragement would become the order of the day.

This goes to the very heart of emergency preparedness and response.

Graeme said...

I'd like to see some caveats. There is a time and place for every sort of communication and while social media is great and needs to be included it does have limitations too!
E.g. sometimes a lack of social media presence is an indication that there is a large population that have no access to internet. Social media falls over for any population that has lost telecommunications or prolonged loss of power (no recharge capability).

Giuliano said...

In these situation Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool on both sides. Broadcasting public info to user or narrowcasting help request from user to users. Based on this assumption simply for passion purpose Twittelp.com was created, an iphone app focused on sending geolocated instant help requests and in visualizing who's asking for help around us..

GlenGilmore said...

Gotta disagree with your proposition, Graeme, "Social media falls over for any population that has lost telecommunications or prolonged loss of power (no recharge capability)."

When hardlines were lost in many parts of Japan, cellular kept folks connected. Even where energy is scarce, recharging a smartphone is hardly a drain.

In your scenario, if all communication is dead, door-to-door remains. When the first light, however, flickers back on and the first cellular tower returns to function, social media returns -- and it'll move much faster and provide more real-time data than any call center.

Also, the beauty of smart phones is that it gives internet access to so many who otherwise do not have computers.

"What about the caveats?" What about recognizing that technology and communication have changed?

GlenGilmore said...

Thanks, Giuliano. Will check out Twittelp.com

Anonymous said...

Two additional thoughts are:

1) allows to team building so that all the team knows what's happening

2) allows for monitoring of evil-doers who are careless with their communications, anonymously, with no search warrant required.

Sean said...

Another thought would be that using Social Media allows EM Departments to push verified information and updates to the media which in "most" situations will minimize time wasted taking calls......

Great list.

GlenGilmore said...

Thanks, KC5FM. Team-building, sharing real-time updates, something easily tracked on Twitter with unique hashtags or Twitter lists, is another great advantage. Can be done on other social networks as well.

Also, listening in on "evil-doers" is a real asset as so many seem so boastful of their misdeeds.

GlenGilmore said...

Excellent point, Sean. Having official EM sources share updates via social media can save time and improve accuracy of reporting as it gives everyone the scoop at the same time: links can bring them to longer documentation.

EM folks have got to get the conversation started by connecting before a crisis, so they can build a community and trust. Official accounts are where folks look to first in a crisis, but if they're not there or silent, they will quickly turn to others.

MapGirl said...

I do have a caveat with this one
25. It’s a powerful way of communicating emergency preparedness information to a vast audience of listeners from an incredibly diverse demographic spectrum.

Preparedness spam, that is messaging about such things when not a critical issue in my life, is the major reason that I don't follow any EM social media feeds.

This is noise* and it detracts from your signal.

*Unless the situation you need to prepare for is also news, like real break in to the broadcast news, not a nice fluff piece sort of news.

GlenGilmore said...

No question, MapGirl, that one of the biggest challenges to conveying emergency preparedness information is a general lack of interest, unless, as you note, it is "a critical issue" in your life.

This goes to a basic issue of social media success: finding content that is relevant and interesting enough to be read. And presentation does matter.

_Unkown said...

It allows people interested in emergency planning and response to observe in real time how an emergency unfolds. This can be helpful for communities in other jurisdictions interested in anticipating gaps at their local level and educating the public. A curated list of 10 tweets from Japan(all posted in the last 5 minutes and 2 weeks after the initial quake) is a powerful way to ask your neighbors and local government if we are prepared.

GlenGilmore said...

Thanks, "Unknown". You're absolutely right. Using social media in an emergency adds a transparency to emergency response that should provide important lessons to everyone.

Additionally, those "listening in" have the ability to share critical information that might otherwise be unknown and could help emergency responders in their task.

Pepper said...

I am excited about the idea of being able to connect with loved ones in the midst of a crisis. But as someone who lived through Katrina, I recall with great clarity that there is not always a vehicle available.

In your caveats you may want to add that this is best suited in situations where there isn't substantial flooding and communication carriers are not overwhelmed.

GlenGilmore said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective. Interesting to consider how social media might have been used during the devastation of Katrina in 2005.

You might be interested in how social media was used during major flooding earlier this year:

Queensland Flood Event: Levering Technology During a Crisis http://su.pr/1iKAbD

Social media used to find flood victims http://t.co/PZZ7rn6

weberdlee said...

It saves lives.

weberdlee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GlenGilmore said...

Thanks for mentioning the most important reason of all: social media can save lives in a crisis!

Laurie Van Leuven said...

Glen, thank you for RTing this (I didn't catch it earlier). It's a great list! I humbly offer two more reasons:

1. It connects the whole community in Omni-directional dialogue in which Emergency Management is just one type of participant. Communities that share information with each other can solve problems at the lowest level possible when emergency responders are overwhelmed tending to the needs of the most vulnerable and injured.

2. It speeds up recovery through active coping mechanisms by providing a venue for impacted community members to share stories and self organize for recovery efforts (i.e. Meet at the local school for a cleanup party).

GlenGilmore said...

Laurie, thank you for your great additions to my list!

Crowd-sourcing is critical in an emergency and facilitating problem by the community "when emergency responders are overwhelmed tending to the needs of the most vulnerable and injured."

Also, as you note, it can speed up crisis recovery by giving victims a forum to share their stories and healing.

Thanks again!

Bouguenec said...

I strongly disagree with point #2: self correction does not apply for emergencies simply because it's real time (point #1).

Look at the 2 the most most shared pics on social media during Sandy: one was from an old storm, the other one was just a fake. Based on information harvested on social network, CNN announced the stock market was flooded....

Self correction does exist on the Internet. It's a long term process and it only applies for non conflictual topics (look at the bibliography of President Bush on Wikipedia).

It does not apply during emergencies because there is no time for the correction. Either one waits and then it's not real time anymore, or one takes the risk to take actions on uncertain information.