How a ‘whole of community’ approach to using social media in times of crisis increases its effectiveness

ncs_socialmedia_program_thumbnailv02Last week we presented at a national public policy forum on how to improve the use of social media in times of crisis in Australia. Social Media in Times of Crisis brought together emergency management, government, business, research, political, policy and media leaders to share ideas in a bid to shape public policy on this important issue.

Hosted by public policy think tank Eidos Institute, in partnership with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), at the State Library in Brisbane, the conference showcased research from QUT and presentations from the Queensland Police Service Media Unit and the Department of Community Safety. Valuable ideas were shared and at once point the conference hashtag #SMTC13 even became a trending topic.

The Emergency 2.0 Wiki presentation outlined how proactively involving the ‘whole of community’: government, business, NGOs, schools, hospitals, community groups, media and the public, in using social media in times of crisis can greatly increase its effectiveness.

We provided a local, national and global perspective on how a whole of community approach has been successfully applied, showcasing New York City’s social media response to Hurricane Sandy and drawing on examples from this year’s Queensland floods and Victoria bushfires.

We demonstrated how engaging with the community as ‘partners’ in the emergency response, utilising social media for two way communication, amplification, collaboration and integration can powerfully assist communities to better prepare for, respond to and recover from disaster.

Our key recommendations for a ‘whole of community’ approach to using social media in times of crisis were:

  1. Provide tools and the platforms to help the public help themselves, each other and emergency services and official agencies eg emergency apps, crowdmaps
  2. Educate the public on how to use social media to help themselves, each other and emergency services
  3. Engage in two way communication – ask the public to help
  4. Engage digital volunteers

 

We would like to hear your thoughts on our presentation and welcome your comments and input.  We look forward to participating in the ongoing public policy discussion on this critical topic and to sharing the link to the conference report with you in the near future.

Cheers,

Eileen Culleton, Founder & CEO (voluntary)

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Is your organisation Emergency 2.0 Resilient? #BCAW2013

Image courtesy Emergency 2.0 Australia Project

Image courtesy Emergency 2.0 Australia Project

In Business Continuity Awareness Week #BCAW2013, in this era of social media, it is important to ask the question “Is your organisation Emergency 2.0 Resilient?” Do you know how to use social media to help your organisation, employees and stakeholders prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies?

We invite you to consider this scenario and ask yourself “is this how my organisation would respond?”

A major emergency or disaster has struck your community and there is widespread damage… roads are cut and communications infrastructure is impacted with congested telephone lines and mobile networks and key emergency websites crashing due to load.

Flood evacuation tweet (@QPS Media)

Flood evacuation tweet (@QPS Media)

An ’emergency 2.0 resilient’ organisation will respond by deploying its business continuity plan which has social media integrated throughout to ensure an ongoing flow of information and two way communication with employees, customers, suppliers, emergency agencies, the media and other key stakeholders.

Hurricane Sandy Google Crisis Response Map

Hurricane Sandy Google Crisis Response Map

Employees immediately access social media sites at work to obtain real-time emergency information and online maps to enable them to plan a safe route home, to pick up the kids from school or to head to evacuation centres. Once in a safe place, they make contact and stay in touch via the organisation’s internal social media network (eg Yammer).

monitoring the emergencySenior Management, business continuity and communications teams monitor the emergency in real time via emergency services updates on Twitter and Facebook (including live press conferences via Livestream). They also use social media aggregator tools such as Trendsmap to zero-in on tweets in specific impacted locations.

Employees from branches in other impacted areas are taking photos and videos of the damage to the offices on their mobile devices and posting it on the internal social enterprise network to share with the organisation.

Yammer screenshot

Yammer feed

A temporary remote workforce for business critical functions is established using phone, text, social media and the organisation’s internal social network. Staff are accessing Yammer messages via the app on their mobile phones. Virtual meetings are conducted with key staff who can’t get to work using social media channels. They collaborate virtually online using realtime documents such as Google word documents, spreadsheets and maps.

Westpac Bank Facebook page listing branches affected by Queensland floods

Westpac Bank Facebook page listing branches affected by Queensland floods

Customers, suppliers and other stakeholders including the media are kept informed and engaged via regular updates on the organisation’s social network sites as well as the website which incorporates the social media feeds on the home page.Senior Management and the communications team are also monitoring what is being said to the organisation on social networks and are quickly responding to frequently asked questions. They are also monitoring what is being said about the organisation and any rumours or misinformation is quickly corrected and quashed via social media channels.

Hurricane Sandy Recovery Crowdmap

Hurricane Sandy Recovery Crowdmap

The organisation supports its local community to recover by posting offers to donate goods and services on online community crowdmaps and billboards.

It also utilises its social media channels to rally its stakeholders to also help.

We could go on with this scenario, but assume you’ve got the picture. Is this how your organisation would respond in a major emergency? Is your organisation emergency 2.0 resilient?

Emergency 2.0 Wiki main page

Emergency 2.0 Wiki main page

If you aren’t, the good news is that you can be! The Emergency 2.0 Wiki, in collaboration with our alliance partner the Business Continuity Institute of Australasia have developed tips and guidelines on the Wiki to help your organisation to use social media in each stage of an emergency:

Continuity Forum Presentation

Continuity Forum Presentation

Free Webinars coming soon on YouTube…

In addition to the Wiki guidelines, we aim to create and post webinars on YouTube to be freely available to all. As a volunteer driven not for profit charity we need funding to enable us to do this, so if you have ideas on how we could access funding/sponsorship for this vital initiative please contact us.

Join the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Community

To keep up to date on the latest trends and technological developments (no, we don’t mean cool electric kids dirt bikes, although we like those) in using social media for business continuity and resilience, you are welcome to join the Emergency 2.0 Wiki community by following us on Twitter @emergency20wiki and we also invite you to join the Emergency 2.0 Wiki LinkedIn Group.  We’d also love you to share your feedback, news, tips and ideas.

We can’t stop disasters from happening, but together we can make our organisations Emergency 2.0 Resilient!

Stay safe,

Eileen Culleton, Founder & CEO (voluntary)

Wiki launches Accessibility Toolkit to empower people with disabilities to use social media in emergencies

Image of Richard Corby

Accessibility Reference Group Leader,
Richard Corby

On behalf of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Reference Group, I’m really excited to announce the launch of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit to help people with disabilities to use social media to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

The online toolkit provides tips, resources and apps to help people with a disability to overcome accessibility challenges of social media. The kit also includes guidelines to assist the emergency sector, government, community, media and business to make social media messages more accessible.

Graphic of disability symbols showing a person in a wheelchair, a profile of a head showing the brain inside, hands doing sign language and a person walking with a caneThe reason for developing the kit is that we’ve witnessed from recent disasters that social media can save lives, but people with disabilities often have difficulty accessing important messages because the social media platforms themselves are inaccessible.

It’s vitally important that people with disabilities, who are the most vulnerable in our communities during emergencies, are empowered to access instant, lifesaving messages through social media and the accessibility toolkit enables this.

For example, the main Twitter website can’t be easily read with a screen reader, a program that reads out information on a screen for people who are blind. In the kit we point users to alternative sites such as Easy Chirp to read tweets. As people tweet in real time, an accessible app such as this can provide immediate notification of when a fire starts or when flash floods hit a town.

Image of the engage app logo on the screens of a Blackberry, iPhone and Android phone

Engage app for deaf and hearing impaired that delivers emergency alerts

Accessibility resources on the wiki include:

  • Tips and guides for people with disabilities on how to access social media
  • Emergency smartphone apps for people with a disability
  • Apps and assistive technologies to access social media
  • Emergency Preparedness YouTube videos that are either captioned or use sign language for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Practical guidelines to assist the emergency sector, government, community, media and business to make social media messages more accessible

In a whole of community approach, the Accessibility Reference Group crowdsourced the content globally using social media. The group consist of professionals drawn from the emergency, government, NGO and business sectors in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. They are:

  • Australia – Richard Corby, Director at Webbism and Leader of the Reference Group
  • Australia – Scott Hollier, Manager, Major Projects & Western Australia Manager for Media Access Australia and W3C Advisory Committee representative
  • USA – Kim Stephens, Senior Associate at Abt Associates and author of the idisaster2.0 blog
  • USA – Stephanie Jo Kent, Working Group on Emergency Interpreting at Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. and Founder, Learning Labs for Resiliency (Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
  • USA – Brigitta Norton, Web Portal Business Consultant, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Government of the District of Columbia
  • NZ – Caroline Milligan, Consultant SMEM NZ and Team leader, NZ VOST – Virtual Operations Support Team (New Zealand)

Image of YouTube site with video of man signingThe reference group’s aim is to build the resilience of people with disabilities through encouraging the use of social media in emergency preparation, response and recovery.

Check out the Accessibility Toolkit and share it with others. If you know of a resource we should add, please let us know. Also, we’d love to have your feedback on the kit.

We’re looking to expand the group to include representation from each continent, so if you are from Europe, Asia, South America or Africa and you are working in the social media/accessibility field, please email me at richard@webbism.com.

US Government releases social media community engagement guide for emergency preparedness

To coincide with September being National Preparedness Month, the US Government has released a social media guide “Community Engagement Guidance and Best Practices” for first responders.

In support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “Whole of Community” approach to emergency management, this guide discusses best practices for the use of social media by public safety agencies and partner organisations for meaningful and successful engagement of community members and stakeholders.

“Whole of Community” is described as including non-governmental organisations like faith-based and non-profit groups, the private sector, academia, individuals, families and communities.

“Social media can provide a means to tap into community and volunteer efforts, saving resources and time by leveraging existing networks, identifying existing resources, encouraging information sharing between the “whole of the community” and official response organisations, and helping to ensure that all information shared is immediate, accurate and up-to-date.” (page 7)

The guide defines and discusses various goals for community engagement, such as “to encourage individual connectivity and promote community resources”, “to promote and encourage efficiency, credibility and transparency” and “to encourage multidirectional sharing of essential information”.

Challenges and considerations covered include “Brand Management and Awareness” and how to address “Oversaturation of information”.

Recommendations and use cases are provided for topics such as:

  • Crowdsourcing for creative problem solving
  • Online collaboration and multi-media information sharing
  • Developing creative and engaging content
  • Relationship building and community partnerships
  • Volunteer networks

This guide builds on earlier social media guides “Social Media Strategy” and “Next Steps Strategy” produced in January by the First Responder Communities of Practice Virtual Social Media Working Group. The Emergency 2.0 Wiki has now added this set of guides to the Emergency Preparation section and the Library joining the following guides sourced from around the globe:

  • “Social Media in an Emergency: A Best Practice Guide” (New Zealand – for which the wiki facilitated an international review)
  • “Project to Advance Crisis and Emergency Communications” (Canada)
  • “Use of social media in crisis communication” (Belgium)

We hope these guides will be utilised internationally to help accelerate the adoption of social media for emergency management and create ‘Emergency 2.0 Ready Communities’. The guide is also available via the FirstResponder.gov site. Please share widely.

Cheers,

Eileen

Eileen Culleton, Founder & CEO (Voluntary role)