The first step to managing a crisis is to understand it. The second step is to have a framework in place that allows for a rapid response to the situation. In the past it has primarily been professional emergency responders who have performed both of these functions. But with social media, communities and those who serve them are now able to quickly determine what any given situation is and respond more effectively. This guide provides an easy, step-by-step guide to anyone responding to crisis.
- Read Guide Online
- Download graphic on how to get realtime info
- Download graphic on how to get help
- List of apps to use in a crisis
Recent history has demonstrated the power of these new social networks in helping people in a time of need. Whether it was the Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 or the bombings in London or Mubai, social media has become a primary source of information during a crisis and the starting point for any response. But many of the people impacted by crisis are not social media experts. This guide is intended to help those in harm’s way with a quick way to get the information they need and collectively deal with an unfolding emergency.
When crisis strikes the first victim is often reliable truth. As media and first responders assess the scene and grapple with rapidly changing circumstances, it is often difficult to get a comprehensive picture. And with limited resources, first responders have to focus on the major dimensions of a crisis and sometimes cannot pay attention to details unfolding on the periphery.
With its innate capacity to capture and record events distributed across a broad territory and provide a ‘long tail’ roll up of news both big and small, social media is perfectly suited to augment and supplement official accounts.
In many cases the information that citizens need is already out there, if they know where to look. This guide will provide an easily accessed directory of the most reliable sources of up to date reports from social media.
In many cases, emergency situations are highly fluid, with events changing rapidly. Whether the situation is stabilizing or becoming more dynamic, social media provides a intelligence network that can be used by anyone with access to the Internet or a smart phone. But knowing what is happening is only half the battle. The following question is what to do next? How can citizens ask for help and provide assistance to the authorities or community members in need? How are these needs prioritized and managed? How do ad hoc groups assemble to help quickly? How do you tap into social networks like Twitter and Facebook? What other tools are best suited to respond to crisis? This guide will provide answers to all of these questions.
Getting Reliable Information
The first place to to turn in a crisis is almost always traditional media. If the crisis is of sufficient scale, local media will be able to deploy resources to cover the story; however, there are two instances when traditional media cannot react as effectively as social media:
- In the immediate aftermath
- If the crisis happens in a remote or sparsely populated area
One of the first instances of social media responding to disaster was the pool of Flickr photos that connected the world to the devastation that visited the beaches of South Asia including Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, immediately after the 2004 Tsunami. Since then, there have been numerous examples of citizen witnesses capturing news events before traditional media is even aware of the event.
Since those early days, advances in technology, improvements in aggregation and curation tools have reduced the time and effort required to track and gather disparate citizen media accounts. Now – if you have the right keywords – you can find collections of images, videos and text reports from a variety of different platforms in real-time. Other tools let citizen editors pull from the best of these sources and summarized reports based on their veracity and relevance.
It is natural that international headlines often feature large-scale emergencies that impact densely populated centers. But crises can strike communities both big and small. In the case of the latter, traditional media is often unable to furnish sufficient resources to cover the news. Because of reductions in newsroom resources, citizens are often left to themselves to figure out what’s happening and patch together reporting networks. Fortunately, the technology to do this is now readily available.
For example, the power of mobile devices has made it possible for people to capture, broadcast and view streaming video in real-time. This means that for the first time, people are able to take on the role that was previously the purview of professional reporters. Increasingly, dramatic weather events like tornados, hurricanes and other disasters are captured and broadcast by citizens using technology accessible for free on the web and via mobile devices.
Ten years ago it would have been far fetched that every community would have a local blogger, active local Twitterers and community Facebook groups. But today there are social networks wherever there are computers and smart phones. In times of crisis, locally impacted citizens can now learn about the situation from any one of these sources and begin filing their own reports for the public.
Emergency Responders are some of the biggest beneficiaries of social media. But they also have to manage the challenges that these new networks present. Traditional lines of communication have been redrawn and social media has challenged the singular authority that First Responders require. Misinformation and competing directives can often come from unofficial sources and reach large numbers of people through viral distribution. On the other hand, social media allows First Responders to communicate directly with citizens without having to rely on third parties like traditional media. The challenge for First Reponders is how to integrate the directives that they formulate with the social media conversations impacted citizens are engaged in. Developing an informed public is the first step in getting both citizens and first responders working together.
Reacting to a Crisis
Beyond Sharing : Social Media in Action
It is human nature to want to help people who need it. As social networks ’cut out the middle man’ in traditional media and put ordinary citizens in direct contact with those in emergency situations, this impulse to help is even stronger. As a result, people organize amongst themselves to solve problems. In some cases this is in concert with emergency professionals; however, in other situations it’s not possible, and people act independently to issue help on the scene. Social media can help in both of these instances. The key to marshalling whatever help is available is to identify and prioritize needs that arise from the crisis and to track whether these needs are met. Because of the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, many help actions begin on these networks but because they haven’t been designed to do this kind of work, their utility is limited.
Social Media can help you understand what’s happening and respond quickly to any crisis. This guide will show how Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be useful in coordinating a response to any emergency.