Utility of Virtual Operation Support Teams: an international survey

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Quick Facts

Publishing Organisation:
Dr Florian Roth and Dr Timothy Prior, published in Australian Journal of Emergency Management
Primary Target Country:
Covers Thematic
  • Unaffiliated volunteers Spontaneous or unaffiliated volunteers are individuals or groups that:</br>*arrive unsolicited at the scene of a disaster</br>*may or may not be a resident of the affected community</br>*may or may not possess skills necessary to respond to the current disaster</br>*are not associated with any part of the existing emergency management system </br></br>Source: https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/Archive/202852NCJRS.pdf
  • VOST Virtual Operations Support Team</br></br>Experts in dealing with social media, the acquisition, processing and presentation of digital information. They can search through and check images, videos and text contributions on various platforms for relevant facts and prepare the information for the responsible authorities, e.g. separate important from unimportant or incorrect information.
  • Target audience
  • Researchers research institutions and scientific communities
  • Audience experience level
  • Intermediate Those who currently use social media to communicate with the public and have developed a draft social media strategy, even if this is not thoroughly documented or communicated across the organisation</br></br>Source: https://www.fp7-emergent.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/20170529_D7.3_Guidelines_to_increase_the_benefit_of_social_media_EmerGent.pdf
  • Disaster Management Phase

    This is not a guideline but a scientific paper


    • No other disaster management practice has undergone as much change than has emergency communication.
      • The components of emergency communication, from situational awareness, to response coordination and public information provision are influenced by factors that are fundamentally different from 20 or even ten years ago.
      • It is a fast-evolving environment, involving new technologies and changing communication preferences.
      • Adapting to a highly dynamic and demanding information environment takes up resources from other activities.
    • One response to this rapid change has been the establishment of Virtual Operation Support Teams to monitor social media, support situational awareness, counter rumours and disseminate official communication.
      • To date, the establishment, utility and added value of these teams has not been the subject of research.
    • This paper examines the evolution of Virtual Operation Support Teams across the globe and how they are being used in seven countries.
      • The paper suggests ways that governments and emergency management authorities can support similar teams and how integration with formal operations might be managed.
      • This may assist countries where Virtual Operation Support Teams are not yet established or where teams are only activated during an emergency event.


    • In a world characterised by advanced information and communication technologies, VOSTs could become a central element of collaboration between emergency management authorities and the actively communicating public.
    • These organisations create information resources that provide practical value for communities struggling to cope with hazards.
    • VOSTs have successfully supported emergency managers in handling an increasingly challenging media environment during incident deployments.
      • Drawing on individual skill sets and capabilities, teams have helped to filter relevant information from the abundance of social media content, improve situational awareness of emergency managers and engage actively with the public

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