#SMEM – Social Media Emergency Management – Crisis Response Efficiency Tools

#SMEM – Social Media Emergency Management –  Social media exploded as a go-to resource & tool since 2011, allowing emergency, disaster, and crisis management to react at a prodigious rate.

Five key characteristics of social media that lend itself to be used, increasingly, to support crisis management functions:

  • collectivity
  • connectivity
  • completeness
  • clarity
  • collaboration

As a critical organisational function, crisis management involves real-time planning and dynamic incident response to situations as they happen; and commonly, often in unpredictable, sometime in unprecedented ways. The ripple-effects of an real-time crisis incident can undermine a community’s, a provinces, and even a country’s ability to operate effectively and may result in harm and occur losses for their people, structures, infrastructures, industry, assets and reputation.

With a plethora of social media tools, the landscape of crisis management has been forever changed. Readily available software and app tools such as
online discussion platforms, near-real-time satellite active fire detection mapping, news aggregators compiling RSS feeds, custom GIS/ESRI mapping, organisations can now effectively and expeditiously disseminate, acquire and analyse information more efficiently and comprehensively.  While social media has the ability to prevent a crisis from spiraling out of control, organisations cannot ignore its ability to aggravate an unfolding crisis situation.  For this reason, experienced professionals like Canadian Disaster Support Network and their various VOST / VOSG deployment options help better manage the incidents and exposure to the chaos of partial or disinformation during major crisis incidents.

The UK riot in 2011 is a clear example of social media aggravated crisis. The question of how a small protest against apparent police brutality in Tottenham could spark riots and vandalism as far afield as Huddersfield has given rise to the need to examine the interrelated questions of how social media has influenced the UK riots. Social media’s role as a catalyst is undeniable as numerous reports attest to the ways in which rioters and onlookers used social media to organize and communicate. Rioters would share with each other where areas were not protected, and would move there in an instance. The speed and impact of the social media initially overwhelmed the authorities.

While social media can impact politics, social movements and the communication of information, the technology alone cannot be blamed for
sparking the revolts. Ultimately, social media is a tool, and the same tool that can cause a negative impact, can also bring about positive outcomes by
facilitating and accelerating the speed and breadth of communication, IF PROPERLY UTILIZED.

As an experienced non-governmental organisations (NGO) utilizing social media networks for crisis preparedness, crisis response and crisis recovery; we can attest that there are highly beneficial considerations for social media to be used effectively during the crisis response phase. Through four consecutive years, Canadian Disaster Support Network VOST deployments, and the policies and practices they operate under, have been applied and proven to strengthen crisis response, expedite communications, and expand incident management capabilities through the use of social media.  End measure of our successes in deploying Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) working social media networks during crisis events;  Those impacted by the crisis have faster access to critical information, ability to address Q&A interactions expeditiously, spontaneous volunteerism is readily directed, and those with family & friends in the impact zone of the crisis can stay abreast of developments as they happen, easing worry and frustration experienced.

Considerably different than traditional forms of media, which are typically limited in reach and restricted to the place of performance, social media tools easily overcome these barriers because of five characteristics that differentiate them from other forms of traditional media:

  • Collectivity => The collective nature of social media serves to connect people across geographical boundaries and time zones via common platforms, to foster the growth of online communities with similar interests;
  • Connectivity => Unlike other forms of media or communications, social media is able to connect users to other resources through the sharing of web links;
  • Completeness => Social media is able to capture contributions and keep them in a persistent state for others to view and share;
  • Clarity => Content on social media websites is usually highly visible, with participating people aware of each other’s activities and content posted;
  • Collaboration => People are encouraged to share and contribute in areas they are interested in, by gathering information and providing feedback.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

#SMEM - Social Media Emergency Management - Crisis Response Efficiency Tools

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