Innovative Uses of Social Media in Emergency Management

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Quick Facts

Publishing Organisation:
Science and Technology Directorate of the United States Department of Homeland Security
Primary Target Country:
United States of America
Covers Thematic
  • Social Media Strategy A social media strategy is a document outlining your social media goals, the tactics you will use to achieve them and the metrics you will track to measure your progress</br></br>Source:
  • Target audience
  • Practitioners Practitioners is a target group in LINKS which comprises local, national and European disaster management organizations, civil protection agencies, first responders, NGOs, security networks...
  • 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:
  • Disaster Management Phase
  • Before Comprises 'Preparedness Phase' and 'Prevention Phase'</br></br>Preparedness action is carried out within the context of disaster risk management and aims to build the capacities needed to efficiently manage all types of emergencies and achieve orderly transitions from response to sustained recovery.</br></br>Source:</br></br>Prevention (i.e., disaster prevention) expresses the concept and intention to completely avoid potential adverse impacts of hazardous events.</br></br>Source:
  • During Also referred to as "Response Phase"</br></br>Actions taken directly before, during or immediately after a disaster in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected.</br></br>Annotation: Disaster response is predominantly focused on immediate and short-term needs and is sometimes called disaster relief. Effective, efficient and timely response relies on disaster risk-informed preparedness measures, including the development of the response capacities of individuals, communities, organizations, countries and the international community.</br></br>Source:
  • After Also referred to as 'Recovery Phase'</br></br>The restoring or improving of livelihoods and health, as well as economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets, systems and activities, of a disaster-affected community or society, aligning with the principles of sustainable development and “build back better”, to avoid or reduce future disaster risk.</br></br>Source:
  • Synopsis

    The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of current and innovative social media strategies used by public safety organizations to engage interactively with the public during all phases of emergency situations

    • Established social media networks are in widespread use and allow for the dissemination of data-rich, contextual multimedia including narrative, photos, and videos.
    • Therefore, by incorporating social media into their communications strategies, public safety organizations can leverage the power of these popular information-sharing technologies to enhance their efforts through all phases of an emergency.

    Social Media Implementation Methods

    • Develop a strategic plan
      • Identify the target audience, objectives, tactics, and staffing requirements including roles and responsibilities 

      • Create a governance structure for approvals 

      • Identify desired social media channels and processes
    • Establish and adopt policies
      • Develop overarching documents that provide guidance to emergency managers for the effective use of social media
      • Implement policies that help foster leadership support and sustainable strategies
    • Establish a Social Media Presence
      • Establish accounts on popular social media platforms and become familiar with the online culture by sustaining an active presence 

      • Establish a complementary mix of social media
      • Engage with the community in advance through social media and recommend standard hashtags
    • Manage Expectations
      • Engage early and often with the public to help set realistic expectations during emergencies 

      • Disclose the source, type, and frequency of official emergency communications 

    • Establish a concept of operations
      • Determine how social media will be managed during emergencies 

      • Establish training and staffing plans to allocate more resources to social media monitoring during an incident
      • Incorporate social media strategies into emergency management exercises
    • Distribute timely and frequent updates
      • Pre-engage the public to increase visibility and credibility by posting regular updates during all phases of emergencies and during times of non-emergencies
    • Coordinate with partnering organisations
      • Partner with other organizations to coordinate consistent key messages
      • Set up a central online source for emergency-related information from a variety of official sources 

      • Coordinate social media efforts regionally 

    • Actively monitor Social Media Content
      • Monitor conversations on popular social networks
      • Engage with community members by responding to questions and comments and providing clarification
    • Evaluate public information
      • Monitor social media channels to assess the manner in which official messages are being received
      • Quickly correct any misperceptions or inaccurate rumors
      • Use social media management tools to track, analyze, and document messages
    • Utilize maps to increase visual context
      • Use mashups and location services such as crisis maps to provide visual and spatial viewing of social media content
      • Include layered map data such as evacuation zones and shelter locations
      • Allow community members to submit damage reports containing photos, videos, and eyewitness accounts relating to the emergency response
    • Engage with Digital Volunteers Organizations and Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST)
      • Enlist digital volunteer communities to help satisfy demand for information when in-house resources are taxed
      • Use a VOST to monitor sites, spot trends, and seek and disseminate information
    • Improve Community Awareness
      • Engage in community discussions and follow relevant hashtags in order to build and maintain better awareness for the Whole Community
      • Include collaborative dialogue about hardships, consequences, and developing safety concerns
    • Plan for loss of connectivity
      • Ensure the network infrastructure is robust and able to handle peak demands during disasters
      • Establish a contingency plan that can mitigate loss of power and connectivity
    • Engage with community members after an incident
      • Seek feedback from community members to help assess the usefulness and frequency of information shared through social media

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