Friend and colleague, Scott Reuter, has written a guest blog post for FirstResponder.gov about the use of SMEM (social media and emergency management) in the recovery phase of incidents – long-term recovery, in particular.
While there are many shining examples of social media use and crowdsourcing by some EM agencies, they are not yet the norm. Many have been slow to embrace social media and the open concept, and slower still to use collaborative docs and other new crowdsourcing tools. Both the VTCs and the public expect their government agencies to be accessible and expect to see active social media accounts.
Some of the frustrations from both sides have merit, and some of the frustrations from both sides about the other are based on misunderstandings and a lack of trust. Most of these issues will resolve themselves soon, so I look forward to the day when we can all work together.
One example of this struggle for which I’ve had a front-row seat is in the world of disaster recovery and VOAD. My social media colleague Marlita Reddy-Hjelmfelt and I are assisting National VOAD with social media during the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. National VOAD was so busy with recovery coordination that their social media presence was briefly unattended, which resulted in some undeserved negative posts. This was easily and quickly remedied by regularly answering questions and comments, and posting.
The last paragraph in the excerpt above gave me pause. The notion of being too busy to address comments and posts on social media channels makes me think we’re not as far ahead of the curve as we like to think in the SMEM world. Yes, we’ve had some amazing successes over the past couple of years but even with groups we’ve gotten online, there is often a great gap between what agencies are willing or, to be fair, able to do and what the public feels they should provide Interestingly, I have found myself advocating for both sides of this issue in the past few months. We need to find the right cultural balance between satisfying the public need and preserving the privacy of clients, in the case of VOAD, or unwittingly endorsing policies or activities that we are not involved in, just to show we can provide information.
While I look forward to collaboration between the different SMEM disciplines, the basic notion of networking is lesson that is still to be learned. With regard to Sandy, even some of our colleagues were not aware of the work VOAD was doing on the ground. I think this is a fine opportunity to step back and look at social media and collaboration with a different and fresh perspective. I, for one, look forward to the challenge and to seeing what lessons we can bring back to the existing SMEM world.