Establishing social media channels
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Emergency Preparation, Business Continuity,Crisis Communications
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Otherwise, please jump in and make a start with adding content. If you aleady have guidelines for establishing social media channels for use for emergency communications, please adapt them to develop generic guidelines for use by everyone. Also, (if you have permission), please link to them in "Examples'.
Key tips for setting up your Facebook page for emergencies:
- Setup your account as a ‘one stop shop’ for information and updates
- Link to Emergency Agencies via 'Likes' (see example from the City of Plano in the US)
- List emergency agencies contact details including Facebook and Twitter channels
- Use the Notes Page for Agency specific information
- Identify in advance the key areas that your organisation will focus on eg local councils in a flood would focus on evacuation centre locations, waste disposal information, health and safety and volunteering information.
- Consider what key recovery information you would need to post eg how to recover important documents after a disaster
- Establish a Frequently Asked Questions list with responses (aligned to call centre scripts)
- Links to key resources
- Use the Facebook Notes Page to provide links to key emergency resources eg
Smart phone applications for emergencies eg Fires Near Me NSW Android Smartphone App
Maps of your local area with hazards identified
- Consider adding badges and buttons (yours or an emergency agency) to your own site and encourage the public to add to their site
Establish systems for live broadcast via webstream of media conferences on your Facebook account using a tool such as Livesteam
Upload to video sharing sites such as YouTube afterwards
Due to the way newsfeeds are aggregated, it is important to note that paid advertising through sponsored posts is now essential to ensure message reach to your followers.
Key tips for setting up your Twitter profile for emergencies: - Add the wording 'official' 'this is the official account' and have it verified
- State what hours this channel will be monitored eg business hours? 6am - to 10pm?
- Link to Terms and Conditions which clearly state how you plan to use this channel and to manage expectations eg If you plan to just use Twitter to broadcast information, state that. Also state whether you will endeavour to reply to individual messages.
- List popular #hashtags (add to them during an emergency) see example of Brisbane City Council
- Post details of your other social media accounts eg Facebook and YouTube
Twitter Alerts are Tweets published by approved public agencies and emergency organizations during a crisis or emergency that contain up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions. Alerts will appear highlighted on subscriber followers timelines and are instantly sent to mobile devices as a mobile notification.
The ability to issue Twitter Alerts via this service is available free to approved local, national and international institutions that provide critical information to the general public such as:
- Law enforcement and public safety agencies
- Emergency management agencies
- City and municipal governments as well as their agencies and representatives
- County and regional agencies, providing services to cities and municipalities
- And select state, federal and national agencies and NGOs.
Agencies need to first apply  (and update their security) and once approved they will then have the Alerts feature displayed on their Twitter profile which followers can click to sign up as indicated below:
Agencies will also receive a custom url to promote to their constituents to signup eg https://twitter.com/fema/alerts. This is critical as followers will not automatically receive Twitter Alerts – they must sign up for the service.
The agency will have the Alert function available to them when they are signed in to Twitter, which they can then activate in times of emergency for specific tweets. The service also operates from mobile devices.
Agencies who have signed up are encouraged to highlight your participation in the program and direct as many of your constituents as possible to signup via your custom Twitter Alerts URL eg twitter.com/fema/alerts.
List of participating organisations
To see which agencies offer Twitter alerts please visit this list 
For more information on Twitter Alerts please visit the Twitter Help Centre Twitter Alerts guide
Key tips for setting up your YouTube profile for use in emergencies:
- Add the wording 'official' 'this is the official account of...'
- Decide whether you will respond to comments. Most agencies don't (it's a better use of resources to focus on interactions on Twitter and Facebook. Also once you start responding to comments you will need to maintain this)
- 'Friend' other emergency agencies
- Add emergency information videos to your channel 'favourites'
- Link to your site (which contains Terms and Conditions of how you will use YouTube)
Yammer is a "Facebook for business" which proved an invaluable tool to maintain communication with staff during an emergency. Key tips on how to use Yammer for emergency communications: - Implement Yammer and train staff how to use the tool before a crisis (including policies and guidelnes for appropriate use)
-Incorporate into staff induction, emergency training etc
-Download the mobile applications onto corporate mobile phones and tablets (eg Ipad).
- Encourage staff to download the mobile applications onto their personal phones, this way they can receive important information and updates
- Establish groups for key staff that need to collaborate directly during an emergency
- Establish groups for 'roll calls' to enable staff to check in that they made it home safe
- Establish external networks to enable collaboration with other government agencies
- Post important links, photos and videos to share with groups or the entire organisation
- Post files to share with key groups
- Use 'Question' function to post questions to inform your situation reports eg buildings damaged, roads closed etc
- Encourage staff to post photos and video with their messages to inform the rest of the organisation of the situation on the ground
- Integrate important Twitter updates by using #yam to ensure staff receive key information
- Use as email when networks are down
- Post updates by email on Yammer to ensure isolated staff receive the same email messages as the rest of the organisation
- Post updates by email to groups or individual employees or group members
- Key tips on how to use Skype for emergency communications:
- Use for virtual meetings with staff who are isolated
- Use for virtual meetings with other organisations/suppliers etc
- Key tips on how to use Google Plus for emergency communications:
- Use for virtual meetings with staff who are isolated
- Use for virtual collaboration across agencies
An integrated community website combines all of the real-time messages of your organisation/agency and other key agencies onto one page, providing a one-stop shop for information.
For example after a disaster, your site could include:
- the Twitter feed of the school district,
- the feed from the Department of Transportation listing road closures in real-time
- the blog posts and tweets from the Mayor
- and how-to videos about the placement of debris for pick-up from the Department of Public Works.
The Example: The US European Command
1. Make your social media “buttons” present and readily accessible at the top of the homepage;
2. Connect your blog with only a “tease” visible–with a picture;
3. Embed videos on the site;
4. Make it highly “shareable”, providing a way to tweet, +1, and “Like” all of the articles and videos;
5. Feed the website with a stream of real-time content called “News from the Wires”;
6. Position a photo stream somewhere highly visible, such as in the middle of the page;
7. Allow it to be seen in multiple languages (key for a European Command site) by using an application such as Google Translate;
8. Rotate top stories on the homepage for visual interest.
Source: “The December List: Best Uses of Social Media by Public Agencies”, 30 November 30, 2011, IDisaster 2.0 by Kim Stephens, 
Additional Guidelines by Sector
Here is a copy of the guidelines for integrating social media in emergency preparedness from the Flemish Government (Belgium).
It is a white paper, established after several weeks of work by a group of volunteers and involving government officials as well as private consultants and communications professionals.
The document has been presented to the Minister of the Interior and is already serving as a guidelines for cities and provinces and their respective crisis preparedness managers.
Feedback is more than welcome.
- How Morris County,NJ Effectively Used Social Media During Hurricane Sandy (Feb 2013) via Hootsuite 
- Queensland Police Service Disaster Management and Social Media - a case study
- Social media breaks new ground for flood crisis response - Brisbane City Council case study
References and Links
- Future Scenario – What will an emergency 2.0 prepared community look like?, Emergency 2.0 Wiki
- Online crisis and emergency management communications toolkit, April 2011 via Partnerships Towards Safer Communities PTSC-Online (Canada)
- Use of social media in crisis communication guidelines via Kortom for the Flemish Government (Belgium) November 2011
- Social Media in the 2011 Victorian Floods Report
- Strengthening Youth Resilience to Natural Disaster with Smartphone Technology (2011)