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)

Related Articles

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 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)

Building emergency 2.0 resilient communities in 2013

American Red Cross Digital Operations Centre

American Red Cross Digital Operations Centre

Hi Everyone. As our Emergency 2.0 Wiki Community looks to 2013 and with many of us still reeling from January’s disasters of bushfires and floods in Australia and heavy snow and floods in the UK (to name a few), we thought we’d frame a discussion around what we aim to achieve together by reviewing how far the world has come in the journey towards building emergency 2.0 resilient communities and share what we believe the challenges are, how the Wiki can help and how you can help. We hope this discussion will also inform the development of our 3 year strategic plan, the first draft of which we will soon post online as a Google Doc for your comments and input.

2012 was another year of devastating disasters around the globe. The good news is that along with the accelerating usage of social media globally (including on mobile devices), we witnessed increasing usage of social media by the community in preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters.

Hurricane Sandy Google Crisis Response Map

Hurricane Sandy Google Crisis Response Map

The most shining example was New York City’s social media response to Hurricane Sandy, in which we witnessed a ‘whole of community’ response, where emergency services, all levels of government,  media, business, NGOs, the volunteer technical community, community groups, faith-based groups and the public pulled together using social media to inform, share, connect, collaborate and galvanise to face the disaster.

The NYC government opened up its data enabling developers and designers to develop emergency maps and applications and partnered with organisations such as Google’s Crisis Response Team to develop a customised map featuring evacuation zones, shelters and recovery centres. Huffington Post launched a Crowdmap to encourage the public to share their own observations, photos and video of incidents such as flooded roads and downed powerlines via sms, tweets, email or web form. The public could also sign up to receive alerts when a report was submitted within their geographical area. This Crowdmap utilises the Ushahidi application, which includes a mobile app to facilitate ease of reporting.

Citizens downloaded mobile apps such as the FEMA Preparedness App and the Red Cross Hurricane App to receive alerts and emergency preparation information.

The NYC government used Twitter @nycgov, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube to issue information and they live streamed media conferences. Most importantly the NYC government engaged in two way communication with the public using social media, responding to questions and listening to the public in order to more efficiently allocate resources.

Digital volunteers from groups such as NYVOST and Humanity Road rallied locally and globally to help monitor the ‘fire hose’ of social media information generated by the public and working with local authorities to keep them informed.

Also listening and responding to local needs in real time via social media was the Red Cross, utilising their new digital operations centre.

The NYC Department of Education utilised Twitter @NYCSchools  and Facebook to issue preparedness messages to school staff and parents, to alert of pending school closures, of schools being used as evacuation centres and also to rally donations for emergency relief and volunteers in the recovery phase.

To enable businesses to directly help each other out with office space and other services such as internet connection and mobile device recharging, a member of the technical community Noel Hidalgo @noneck established a Sandy Coworking Crowdmap using the Ushahidi platform.

Hurricane Sandy Recovery Crowdmap

Hurricane Sandy Staten Island Recovery Crowdmap

To support recovery in Staten Island a Crowdmap, created by the community was populated with information from the public via text, tweet using the hashtag #helpsi or directly online. This Ushahidi map automatically updates reports of relief help available or people in need as well as relief stations and volunteer opportunities. Businesses can update donated services and goods as well.

While we don’t have information on how the business sector used social media in the emergency preparation phase to prepare their workforce, or during the emergency to liaise with their stakeholders (please send us articles if you have them), from our observations, the majority of the Future Scenarios of an Emergency 2.0 Resilient Community that we posted on this site and the Wiki over a year ago were played out in New York City in the face of Hurricane Sandy.

We encourage everyone to revisit the Future Scenarios for emergency preparation, response and recovery and ask yourselves is this how my community would respond in an emergency? Is this how my emergency services would respond? My city government? My business? My local school? What are the gaps?

How the Wiki can help communities become Emergency 2.0 Resilient – and how you can help

Emergency 2.0 Wiki main page

Emergency 2.0 Wiki main page

Guidelines

Great progress was made last year in producing tips and guidelines for using social media for emergency preparation, response and recovery. Thanks to the great work and contribution of Wiki reference group members, the broader wiki community and the US and NZ governments, there is a wealth of resources on the Wiki for all to access.

Social Media in an Emergency: A Best Practice Guide

Social Media in an Emergency: A Best Practice Guide

Emergency agencies/First Responders guidelines

As well as on those tips and guidelines on the Wiki itself, a number of guides have also been published by government agencies, in New Zealand and the United States, which can be adapted for your own countries. These guides are referenced and linked throughout the Wiki and posted on the library page. They include:

Social media in an Emergency: A Best Practice Guide developed by New Zealand emergency services. The Emergency 2.0 Wiki is proud to have assisted with its development by facilitating an international review. This excellent guide was recently translated into French, thanks to the voluntary initiative of #SMEM and #MSGU community member Moro Cedric @moro_cedric and it is available via his I-Resilience blog and also on the Wiki.

Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer & Technical Communities

Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer & Technical Communities

The US Government produced three excellent guides last year for first responders on community engagement and social media strategy for emergency management.

The Digital Humanitarian Network, a new consortium of Volunteer & Technical Communities of digital volunteers, published Guidance for Collaborating with Volunteer & Technical Communities.

FEMA Social Media in Emergency Management online course

FEMA Social Media in Emergency Management online course

Free online SMEM course – available globally

This three hour online course was developed by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for first responders and is available to everyone around the world, for free! It is interactive, with videos and can be done in parts. The Wiki is proud to be referenced in the content and as a resource for further reading. The course is also listed in our library.

Accessibility Toolkit

We created an Accessibility Toolkit which not only provides tips on how people with a disability can overcome accessibility issues of social media, but 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 caneit also has guidelines on how organisations can ensure their social media messages reach this sector.

Our Reference Groups need you!

Technology and social media is changing so rapidly that what is ‘best practice today’ is not tomorrow. It’s the key reason why we created a wiki and not a website – to enable us to quickly update our tips and guides.

Emergency AppsA case in point for this is Facebook. As #SMEM guru Jim Garrow pointed out in his Face of the Matter blog, Facebook is no longer the ‘silver bullet’ – because they’ve recently changed the news feed so that only 10%- 15% of your messages will be viewed by your followers.

We need you to help us update the tips and guidelines on the Wiki and keep them up-to-date as the technology and platforms change. This means sharing your own tips and sourcing tips from the #SMEM community, the Wiki LinkedIn Group posts, leading blogs, news sites, case studies and research reports. Please check out our Reference Groups; we need you!

If you work in the Education or Health Sector, we’d also like to encourage you to help us start up Reference Groups to develop resources to help schools, universities and hospitals become Emergency 2.0 Resilient. While we’ve developed and collated some resources, there isn’t yet lot of content. This year we’d like to address this and encourage you to help us.

Capacity Building and Empowering Community Groups for Resilience

Image courtesy The Emergency 2.0 Australia Project for the Government 2.0 Taskforce Report 2010

Image courtesy The Emergency 2.0 Australia Project for the Government 2.0 Taskforce Report 2010

We believe that resilient communities are connected communities and it is critical to capacity build community groups to use social media for emergency preparation, response and recovery. This includes first responder volunteer groups such as CERT (US) and SES (Australia), service clubs such as Lions and Rotary, faith-based groups and neighbourhood watch groups. It is these grass roots community groups on the ground that are best positioned to tap into local needs in times of emergency and who will be there during the long road to recovery when outside help and media attention subsides.

The Wiki aims to, in consultation with key groups, develop a ‘Community Group Emergency 2.0 Toolkit’, which would consist of guidelines, YouTube webinars and other resources to empower groups to use social media for emergency preparation, response and recovery. We aim to seek grant funding and investigate crowdsourcing options for this vital initiative, so if you are interested in helping, please contact us.

Building Business Continuity and Resilience

Continuity Forum Presentation

Continuity Forum Presentation

Key to community resilience is keeping businesses operating and social media can play a critical role in helping business prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. We further developed the Wiki guidelines for business continuity and resilience, covering topics such as ‘using social media to empower employees’, ‘to communicate with stakeholders’ and ‘establish a temporary workforce’. We presented at a Continuity Forum in Brisbane (Australia) and Government 2.0 Conference in Canberra (Australia) and have since had many invitations to speak on this topic. To address the need to build business capability in this area, we aim to seek funding to create webinars to post on YouTube to be freely available to all to access across the globe. If you have ideas on how we could access funding for this initiative please contact us.

Citizen Engagement and Education for Resilience

Disaster Alert app by the Pacific Disaster Center.

Disaster Alert app by the Pacific Disaster Center.

Last, but not least, while citizens are increasingly using social media to find and share emergency information, we believe a lot of education is still needed to help people better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. For example, encouraging people to download an emergency app onto their mobile devices so they can get alerts before disaster strikes is one action that has enormous potential to save lives. This includes raising awareness of the existence of apps produced for their locality, but also disaster alert apps available globally, that they can download prior to travelling.

Another priority is to ensure the social media messages shared by citizens on the scene contain critical information to best help emergency services, the media and the public. This includes enabling GPS on mobile devices and adding a #hashtag and the time when tweeting warnings, photos or videos. The following tweet was part of an awareness campaign we ran in January during the Australian bushfires to educate the public on how to share information using social media, providing links to the Wiki:

Another important education objective is to encourage people to help each other and local emergency agencies and governments by populating crowdmaps with their own information from the scene. As we have showcased, this was a vital feature of the social media response to Hurricane Sandy, but is still a new concept in many countries. The Wiki promotes the use of crowdmaps in our Future Scenarios and throughout the Wiki. We also promote their use during major disasters; for example we retweeted this message from Brisbane Council during the January floods in Australia:

We believe that key to successful citizen education and engagement for emergency 2.0 resilience is developing engaging social media campaigns that are designed to go viral. We also recognise that it is important to run these campaigns in the leadup to known disaster seasons eg hurricane/tornado/bushfire as well as during every major disaster to remind people how to use social media to prepare, share information, help one another and to mobilise and galvanise support for recovery.

This means also utilising the most popular social media sites such as Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube and Pinterest. At present, due to a lack of resourcing we are limited to Twitter, and our campaigns are sporadic, based on volunteer time availability.

To meet this challenge, we are seeking a communications agency to design a social media campaign on a pro bono basis. We also aim to establish a volunteer Marketing and Communications Wiki Work Team to assist with rolling out campaigns across the globe with local information such as emergency mobile apps. If you are interested in assisting, please contact us.

Help Translate the Wiki into other languages

At present, the Wiki is only available in English. To help accelerate the global adoption of social media for emergency management and help create emergency 2.0 resilient communities, we aim to make the content available in a number of languages. If you speak (and write) another language and are keen to help with translating sections of the Wiki, please contact us.

Funding Support

Delivering these important activities is reliant on the Emergency 2.0 Wiki receiving funding support. As a not for profit in the start up phase, run entirely by volunteers, the Wiki requires funding to enable us to continue to provide and develop this free resource for all.

To date, our activities have been very limited as we had not been in a position to fundraise while awaiting endorsement from the Australian Taxation Office as a deductible gift recipient (DRG). We recently received that endorsement and can now actively seek grant funding, corporate donations and ‘crowdsource’ funding and we aim to soon launch a donation page to enable people to make a welcome contribution (of any amount) to help us keep delivering and developing this vital free global resource for all. In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss ideas for funding support, we please contact us.

Thank You!

In closing, we’d like to thank you for being a part of the Emergency 2.0 Wiki community and we look forward to working with you in building Emergency 2.0 resilient communities around the globe in 2013. Please checkout How to Help for all the different ways you can participate. We’d love your feedback and ideas, so please join the discussion on the Wiki LinkedIn Group, share your ideas in the comments below, or contact us directly.

Cheers,

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.