What is VOST?
VOST stands for Virtual Operations Support Team. The concept, which was introduced to the emergency management world in the spring of 2011 by Jeff Phillips and a group of volunteers, was the natural result of another phenomenon, called SMEM (social media and emergency management). Very simply put, a VOST is a team of trusted agents, used by emergency management or disaster organizations to handle the sometimes overwhelming amount of social media activity that can occur during a major incident, such as a wildfire, a flood, or even a community, political, or sporting event.
Since early 2011, a number of VOSTs have responded to incidents. A list of active VOSTs and teams in development, as well as a directory of related volunteer organizations using SMEM can be found here: http://vosg.us/active-vosts/.
The Red Elm and VOST
I have been involved in SMEM since the fall of 2010 with the development of EMCampNM, which fosters social media use among emergency managers in New Mexico. This led to virtual participation in the first VOST proof of concept at NEMA on March 11th, 2011. Since 2011, in addition to leading PNWVOST (see below), I helped drive VOST development through my participation on:
- Team Osbourne (Jeff Phillips’ original team)
- Hurricane Irene
- New Mexico winter storm monitoring
- Oregon Floods
- Oklahoma tornados in April 2012
- Zozobra VOST (This activation as repeated annually through 2015)
- Hurricane Sandy (NYVOST)
- Jefferson County Floods (COVOST)
- Typhoon Haiyan (Open Street Map)
- Nepal Earthquake (Standby Task Force)
- Roseburg CC (Oregon VOST)
- JIC evaluation for NMDHSEM statewide exercises
As the Team Lead of PNW VOST, I have led twelve Type 1 incident activations (more than 1,200 hours of incident time):
- Arapaho Fire, Wyoming (2012)
- Barry Point Fire, Oregon (2012)
- Wenatchee Complex, Washington (2012)
- Table Mountain Fire, Washington (2012)
- Owyhee Fire, Oregon (2013)
- Big Windy Complex, Oregon (2013)
- Logging Unit Fires (2014)
- Chiwaukum Complex (2014)
- Deception Complex (2014)
- Sockeye Fire (2015)
- Wolverine/Chelan Complex (2015)
- Kettle Complex (2015)
Additionally, I was a member of the instructor cadre for S-203 (Introduction to Incident Information) in Medford, Oregon in May, 2013.
Beyond maintaining the publicly visible social media sites for PNW VOST, I have developed a comprehensive method for managing deployments. On January 10th and 17th, 2013 my colleague, Scott Reuter, and I presented on VOST to the National Libraries of Medicine Disaster Info Specialist Program.
Information Support During Emergencies: About VOST (Virtual Operations Support Team)
Scott Reuter, current president of Oregon VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) and DHS/FEMA certified course instructor for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, and Marlita Reddy- Hjelmfelt, Team Lead of Pacific Northwest VOST and member of the VOST Leadership Council shared information about VOST, including how they lend social media and information support to incident management teams.
Slides (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Additional presentations/workshops include: Seattle Biomed (2013), NMDSHEM Annual Conference (2013), PIEPC (2015), Field Innovation Team Bootcamp 4.0 (2015).
- Link to Users Guide is on the cover sheet, just below Creative Commons block.
- It is set to Read Only. Use File… and Make a Copy to save one for yourself in Google Drive (better option) or File… and Download As to save to your hard drive in Excel)
- Note that there is an issue with team hours not recalculating, at present. I have a new version coming out shortly but if you need to use the time sheet before I release it, please see this blog post to implement the fix on your own (You can do this! Really!):
Services we provide:
- Social media incident presence for the PIO
- Comprehensive monitoring of all social media activity related to the incident
- Incident-specific sites
- Social media intelligence, based on keywords, geocoded reference, and related entities
- Brand awareness of the emergency entity managing the incident
- Social media analytics throughout the deployment
- Resource management statistics
- Mentoring in social media best practice
- VOST training and mentoring of incident co-operators
- Ad hoc intelligence gathering