The little trembler on the east coast yesterday afternoon was fascinating and fun to watch. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for those caught up in it. But for those of us on the “left coast” who have experienced earthquakes it was amusing to see the reactions and behaviors, knowing that there was likely relatively minor damage or injuries. Even so, watching all the major news networks and my fellow Twitter #SMEM compadres observations I noted the following;
- When the quake hit, it looked like everyone ran outside and stayed there. I’m guessing “drop, cover and hold” drills are not part of their school curriculum or emergency response drills. Would everyone have run outside if it had been 15 degrees in the dead of winter?
- Tweets traveled faster than the earthquake S waves, meaning folks located hundreds of miles from the epi-center knew about it before they felt it.
- Major employers (i.e. the federal government) appeared to spontaneously release employees from work. I would not have wished that commute on anyone.
- The public’s need to validate what they experienced/witnessed once again dropped wireless voice communication systems to their knees. Once again, text messaging appeared to stay “up” even when voice systems were overloaded (same for internet/instant messaging).
- Twitter and other micro-blogging/SM sites “throttled” emergency response professionals who were using the service to relay important safety and situational awareness information. I’m guessing this was a result of automated sentry settings to deter spammers.
- Government agencies used Twitter/FB for employee accountability and communications.
- Lots of hashtags were in play due to the large area affected, making it difficult to gain overall situational awareness. If there had been pockets of focused significant damage/impact, specific hashtag usage would have surfaced for that locale, making it easier to figure out who has the bigger messes to clean up.
I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from a SMEM perspective, just more examples of how SM was used to validate, disseminate and communicate during crisis. But, I’m banking that a bunch of “policy wonks” who rode it out have a new appreciation of the sudden and unnerving impact of natural disasters. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for policy aftershocks. Monday, I fly to Washington D.C. along with SMEM gurus @BrianHumphrey and @MarkBasnight where we will be talking about social media in emergency response at the Technology for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference. I’m guessing the earthquake and Hurricane Irene will be hot topics. Guess I’ll be revising my talking points during my flight, and I think I’ll pack a raincoat.
I just read CNN’s article describing the current mindset of the British Prime Minister after the disastrous London riots. I don’t know where he is getting his information and advice, but blaming the use of social media tools for the riots and having the cojones to publicly declare that these tools should be shut down during crisis is nuts. One word comes to mind; “REALLY?!!!” I can only interpret his comments as a knee-jerk reaction to an unsettling situation. I assume he had his head stuck in the sand during the whole middle-east upheaval thing….
Gerald Baron’s recent post on the Emergency Management website is spot on. The use of social media tools in civil unrest is a complex issue. I particularly like the analogy that compares blaming social media use during protests to blaming the trees for a forest fire. We need to uncover the root cause, contributing environment and government response before attempting to stifle such fundamental freedoms like free speech. To do otherwise is not only foolish, but dangerous. Osama bin Laden ran his complex terrorist organization via courier. Where there is a will, there will be a way.
Governments must continue focusing efforts on using all forms of SM to gather intelligence, listen, educate and influence positive behaviors during protests/unrest. It is heartening to know that law abiding London citizens used SM to keep in touch with family members, restore a sense of community and organize clean up crews.
Add the London riots to a growing number of civil unrest events that have cast the light on the use of social media; Egypt, Syria, Vancouver (OK, I know this was a stretch… a hockey game for cryin’ out loud). Social media usage was prominently noted as having profound impact on the outcomes, positive and negative, and will continue to be used to organize chaos and arrest offenders. If the British Prime Minister thinks he can keep things “hunky dory” by simply go in through the back door and disabling these tools, he needs to upgrade his telephone modem, get rid of his Prodigy account and connect with the 21st century.
OK, I’m ‘fessin up. I’ve neglected my blog for a couple of weeks. The weather finally turned nice up here in the Pacific Northwest after an unseasonably cold and dreary spring and early summer, and I’ve taken the opportunity to get outdoors and do stuff. This, coupled with work and other projects made posting on It’s Not My Emergency take a back seat. I just didn’t have time. Or did I?
Reflecting back, I spent significant time on the computer, surfing SM sites and engaging. For me, Facebook is my biggest “time sucker”. A recent survey notes that the average FB user spends 6 hours a day on the site! I believe it. It seems like I spend an inordinate amount of time checking my FB news feed. I’m too curious about what my friends are doing, saying and showing, and I spend most of my time “creeping” rather than engaging. I post infrequently compared to some of my other FB friends. Dana VanDen Heuvel nails my habit in a May blog post “Five things in social media that are a complete waste of time”.
On the other hand, my time spent on Twitter seems much more organized and focused. Using TweetDeck, I’m able to quickly access an incredible amount of diverse information in a short amount of time. I tend not to loiter, instead focusing on “getting in and getting out”. The ability to easily identify interesting links to news stories and blog articles makes my surfing time much more efficient, and the interface allows me to quickly weigh in and pass along info to my followers with one click of the mouse. In other words, I tend to be much more businesslike in my SM approach.
Now, with Google + thrown into the mix I clearly don’t have time to do it all. Time to get strategic in using the various platforms.