A reminder: the shift in emergency communications is far from complete

Over on the Emergency Management website I came across this excellent article by Patrice Cloutier.

By Patrice Cloutier

In the recent weeks, I’ve been deployed to the sites of major incidents to help coordinate emergency information and support command as PIO. Those two events shared many similarities in the provision of emergency information (EI) and the use of social media in such disasters.

What I witnessed had a strong sobering effect on me. Despite my relentless optimism about the great benefits of the use of social media in emergency management and crisis communications, the reality is that many organizations are not anywhere near ready to integrate these new practices in their programs.

Some observations:

  1. many organizations still consider the traditional media as their primary conduit to inform the public …
  2. many still operate on a 24-hour cycle … with daily news conferences and/or public briefings … they don’t see a need for constant updates in between daily briefings …
  3. many do not use social media at all to communicate with their audiences
  4. many do not monitor social networks to identify issues and communications needs/gaps that may exist
  5. many do not have any crisis communications expertise or training
  6. many smaller communities have no trained Public Information Officers
  7. many organizations still think that disasters are local and are unaware of the role that people far away can have in shaping the public perception of their actions/response
  8. and, very importantly, many communities still lack the communications infrastructure (bandwith, mobile access) to make full use of SMEM …

So, how do you go about changing things and correcting these obsolete ways of responding to crises? Proponents of SMEM (social media in emergency management) still face an uphill battle. During my deployments, I heard local officials say things such as these:

  • “We don’t do the Facebook thing or the Tweeter here … most of our people are seniors …”
  • “We don’t have a Facebook page ..” .(after the municipality’s website went down because of heavier traffic …)
  • “We’re OK … we sent out a news release …. (after people complained they were getting news from the provincial/national media and not from their local leaders …)

How to counter these dangerous perceptions? Here are some arguments and thoughts:

Finally, we must impress upon elected officials and emergency managers, the need to not only use social media but also monitor it … for reputation management purposes and for enhancing situational awareness …

 

The full, original article can be found here

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