Social Media for Emergency Responders Application Note

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Quick Facts

Publishing Organisation:
Homeland Security
Covers Thematic
  • Social Media Strategy
  • Technologies
  • Target audience
  • Practitioners
  • Audience experience level
  • Starter
  • Disaster Management Phase
  • Before
  • Mentions platforms


    • Many agencies conduct two-way communication with the public using social media in order to build trust and credibility within a community and empower people to take an active role in their own safety.
    • This dialog can also help to establish agencies as an authoritative and accurate information source.
    • Furthermore, social media provides an additional but highly effective method for disseminating emergency information to a wide audience.
    • Law enforcement agencies experience improved situational awareness in many aspects of their daily operations through social media use.
    • Fire departments use social media as a tool to educate the public about fire safety and prevention, provide information during emergencies, and keep residents informed.
    • EMS agencies benefit from the information sharing and professional education that social media can facilitate.
    • These agencies can also post training photos and videos on social media networks.
      • This helps to establish the community’s trust in the services they provide to keep people safe.
    • For emergency managers, ongoing communication through social media can help the public be better prepared and cooperative during disasters and other emergencies.
      • This allows emergency managers and humanitarian agencies to be more effective and timely in their response and recovery efforts.


    Although emergency responders benefit from social media in many ways, they can also face a number of challenges in implementing a social media strategy. Some of those challenges are listed below and should be considered when establishing a social media presence.

    • Privacy and legal issues
      • Agencies need to be concerned about displaying personally identifiable information, questionable images, and language on their social media accounts
    • Rumor control and misinformation: Ensuring that all content posted on social media accounts and websites is verified as accurate and timely is important in maintaining trust within the community
      • Additionally, agencies should be wary of fake accounts established in their name that are meant to create confusion or mislead the public
    • Lack of resources
      • Agencies must have the necessary staff to maintain social media accounts and websites, monitor and analyze traffic for extraction of actionable information, and keep up with trends and updates
    • Information oversaturation
      • A social media page that is inundated with unrelated information can lose credibility as an authoritative information source

    Overview of Social Media Tools and Networks

    • Social Networks
    • Media-Sharing Networks
    • Community Discussion Forums
    • Blogs
    • Wikis
    • Feed Readers, Social News, and Social Bookmarking
    • SMS
    • Social Media Management Tools
    • Mapping Tools
    • Organizational Websites

    See Related (coming soon)