On Thursday, August 12 I attended the Red Cross Emergency Data Summit in Washington, D.C. As a full-time emergency dispatcher and as an entrepreneur starting a business focused on preparedness, this summit was right up my alley. Add this to the fact that the entire summit was available online and that I could participate from home in Colorado with my broken leg, it was perfect!
This was my first time participating in an online conference. The speakers and panels were broadcasted via UStream and people from around the world were participating using the UStream chat and Twitter with the #crisisdata hashtag.
There was a lot of great information and I encourage anyone who deals with emergency management, public safety or emergency preparedness to check out the video of the summit, the Crisisdata Wiki, and the Red Cross white paper prepared in advance of the conference.
My 5 Lessons Learned
- Police and fire departments need to have interactive social media policies Dispatchers and Public Information Officers (PIOs) need to be able to communicate with the public by any means necessary. The Los Angeles Fire Department is a great example of this. The have a blog: lafd.blogspot.com, two Twitter accounts: LAFDTalk and LAFD, and a Google group page.
- Build up your community before a disaster happens This is important at ALL levels, whether it’s international agencies, state emergency management offices or your own neighborhood. You should know who you’re going to turn to before a crisis occurs.
- People think public safety agencies are monitoring social media A Red Cross survey of adult web users found that “69 said that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites in order to quickly send help – and nearly half believe that response agencies are already doing that.” Unfortunately, most agencies are not monitoring social media. A lot of dispatch centers limit or outright ban internet access for dispatchers.
- Social media is nothing more than a way to communicate This sounds too simple, but with technology as with emergency planning, too simple seems to be often overlooked. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, SMS, etc. are nothing more than communication tools. If we can convince technophobic emergency managers and citizens that social media tools allow them to communicate faster and wider than traditional means, maybe we can get more people to use these tools in an emergency.
- Cell phone batteries and chargers should be part of your emergency kit You already know how useful your cell phone is during day-to-day use. If you depend heavily on your phone now, imagine how much you’ll depend in it during an emergency. Make sure you have extra batteries or a way to charge your phone if you can’t get access to power.
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