The table is nearly set.

And you have a formal invitation to join us on 11/11/15 as we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the first use of the #SMEM hashtag (which stands for Social Media in Emergency Management).

Steve Jobs-quotes

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Your Responsibility

Posted in community

In recent weeks, Ive been working on drafting social media policies for several new organizations that I work or volunteer with. And while each organization uses social media differently, one common thread has been evident in each organizational training:

User Responsibility

While an organization can easily say here is how we will engage in social media, it is important to realize that your employees, your volunteers and your social media administrators will all contribute to your agencys reputation in the social space.

But you cannot assume that all of your employees or volunteers understand how to most appropriately engage in social media. This is why training and orientation to your social media policy is of serious importance.

Here are some basic guidelines to consider:

  • Employees and Volunteers are responsible for their personal engagement and their privacy settings in social media. Not only should this be said out loud to employees and volunteers, but there are a couple of very specific recommendations that I make in this area. They include recommendations to:
    • Conduct the privacy review of your settings on Facebook every 3-6 months. Facebook is notorious for changing its privacy settings regularly and its important for you to be in touch with these changes as they occur.
    • You should look at your Facebook profile from the perspective of a non-friend. Are you exposing more than you wish to? Often people dont realize that both profile pictures and cover photos show up publicly on your timeline, including all of the comments of your friends. You can choose to hide each of these from your timeline so that no one on the outside can see these pictures.
    • Its also important to look at the timeline & tagging setting on Facebook. Did you know that Facebook employs facial recognition in pictures and will ask your friends to verify your identify in pictures? You want to turn this setting off. To do this, look under the Timeline and Tagging setting, look for the Who sees tag suggestions when photos are uploaded that look like you and turn that setting to no one
    • On Twitter and other platforms, dont be afraid to block or report spam-like accounts. How do you determine if an account looks spammy? If their Twitter handle seems convoluted, they have an egg-like profile picture or if their tweets are highly repetitive, feel free to block these accounts. You dont need to have spammy accounts following you, even if they share your content.
    • Employees should think twice before being friends on social media. This issue can be tricky because, often, people spend so much time with those that they work with that it seems natural to also follow each other on social media, right? The reality is that because you spend so much time together, you probably shouldnt follow each other on social media unless you truly are friends outside of work.

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Where is Waldo?

Posted in community

You may think that Ive disappeared from the #SMEM scene as of late, thanks to the lack of updates on this blog. However, that is not the case.

What is true is that Ive been busy working on a number of projects which have been just a little more behind the scenes, but now is a good time to resurface for a brief moment and chat about these endeavors.

  • New Job: As you may remember, I moved from the emergency management profession and into a 9-1-1 technology career. While still mystifying for some, the next huge phase in the 9-1-1 community is wrestling with the advent of Next Generation 9-1-1 which is essentially the incorporation of #SMEM directly into the public safety community. It is fun to be on the forefront of some of the planning conversations which will someday bring text, video and imagery right into the hands of future 9-1-1 dispatchers.
  • New Training Classes: Despite the new job, Ive also had the pleasure of being involved in the development of a new training course that is currently in the pilot stage for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, entitled Social Media Engagement Strategies. This class will have several pilots before seeking final course approval. The next pilot is on March 19th in Cincinnati, Ohio. And according to the NDPTC training website, there are still 8 seats left in the course, if youre lucky enough to be within a commutable distance. Pilot #1 occurred in Washington State in February and the feedback was very encouraging and positive. Intermediate Social Media Tools, taught by Kevin Sur, is also occurring the day before and has 5 seats left at this writing. For other pilot deliveries, keep an eye on the NDPTC site for future announcements.
  • New Association: For the past year, Ive been working with a number of #SMEM folks to create a professional association that wholly models and embodies the use of collaborative tools and technologies. With a vision to provide an umbrella to emerging technology initiatives and to solve age-old emergency management issues through truly incorporating a whole-community approach, it is an exciting initiative. And, at this juncture, weve seated a Board of Directors, adopted By-Laws and a Strategic Plan and are currently jumping through the hoops to be fully registered as an operational 501(c) organization. Our goal is to soft-launch this membership-based organization late summer 2015 and host our first in-person conference in 2016 or 2017. Much more to come on this very soon.

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Questions for Big Data

Posted in challenges

I am a huge fan of social media and an even bigger fan of emergency response.

And, as capabilities expand in the realm of social media, Im beginning to struggle with the role of big data in emergency response.

Yes, every day, we have increasing access to types of data as emergency response agencies.

We have GIS data layers that cover many different types of layers from critical infrastructure to vulnerable populations. We have cameras that monitor public spaces. We have river sensors that report flooding. You name it, a data layer can be created for it.

The problem is our humanity. How much information is too much? What is the span of control on the human brain? What decisions will require human-level involvement versus decisions that can be automated?

I work in a 911 facility where our dispatchers already monitor at least 5 large screens of data (and that is simply to manage voice-based communications coming over telephones and radio traffic). In most public service agencies, we have a customer service model that answers each individual 911 call and seeks to provide direct response.

In the future of data management, a 1:1 response ratio will be impossible to maintain in our emergency service structures. No agency has the resources to manage this type of customer service model. And when there are conflicting demands on resources from differing types of data inputs, how will we prioritize the true threats occurring in any incident?

While I see a lot of emergency response programs interested in mobile apps that aim to engage the community in emergency response (like Red Cross and PulsePoint), the emergency response community must begin to have serious conversations about how to unify around several applications, because as the app market continues to proliferate (being over a million apps today), it wont help any agency to have 1000 people using 100 different apps. There needs to be some unity of message and use among emergency response agencies so that we can collectively learn to act together during a response and not all be off doing different things. That risks replication of work across the board.

Here are a couple of thoughts that we need to consider as these conversations evolve in a variety of disciplines (most notably, 911 and Emergency Management):

What data is really required to make emergency response decisions at local, state and national levels? Are the data requirements different and why? What are the time constraints on that data? How quickly must the data be obtained in order to effectively impact emergency response? What role should local, state, federal and community relief organizations have in working with the technical communities? How can we define a strategy so that we are not all trying to solve the same problems? Who should be engaged in the conversations? Right now, I see a lot of siloed conversation in the realms of Emergency Management and 911 (as it revolves around Next Generation and FirstNet initiatives), but these two professions will ultimately create information-flow channels that need to work in harmony with each other. How and who should be responsible for collecting the data required? Are government organizations responsible for bringing these capabilities in house or should they be partnering with a community-based organizations. And while currently, there are many groups evolving out of both technical communities (Crisis Mappers, Geeks Without Bounds, Standby Task Force) and emergency response community support organizations (Crisis Commons, Red Cross Digital Advocates, VOST, Humanity Road), partnership with Social Media Live Casino Indonesia Ibcsbobet

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Politics Social Media

Posted in community training

politicsYes, this blog has been quiet.

No, that doesnt mean Ive wandered away from social media.

For the past 2 months, Ive been living behind a Facebook Page alias and supporting a local political campaign.

And, if you really want to know what managing an emergency might feel like on social media, join a locally controversial political campaign. It can be difficult to simulate the amount of traffic, engagement and rumors when you are preparing to handle emergency events, but politics can provide an excellent microcosm of a crisis environment.

Some of the key things that you will learn are:

  • Coordinating messaging between different levels of a campaign can be tough. Everyone has an opinion and way of saying certain things. And unlike emergency response, which has a very defined chain of command, community organizations may not have a similar organizational structure.
  • Developing a battle rhythm across week and months, to build momentum, is very important. You are aiming to mobilize both volunteers and the action of people voting. A simple post every few days wont accomplish an engagement goal. You must be timely, relevant and connected the current events in order to grab someones attention. This requires very focused thinking and planning to ensure that people remain solidly engaged.
  • Different types of posts will garner different types of engagement. People will like pictures, but often wont comment on them unless they have a personal connection to the picture.
  • Controversy sparks conversation, but you have to be cautious about whether your base is open and welcoming enough to provide space for newcomers. If your goal is to get new people to vote, you have to be careful that you dont always have the same 10 people commenting on your posts, giving the appearance of a closed environment. It is okay to allow both positive and negative comments, but establish a decent take-down policy for what goes against how you define civil discourse.
  • You will become an expert at managing trolls. There will be people who do not care what you say or do in a political campaign. They will be opposed to your position and wont be changing their mind. They may also focus on spreading discontent on your campaign page. Usually trolls use two different tactics which include repetition, off-topic posts or good, old-fashioned name-calling. If you see this behavior, call it out (in the voice of the page) and delete the offending comment. People will choose either to self-moderate their own behaviors or will continue to behave in a similar manner. If your goal is to maintain open and civil discourse, it is vital that you decipher between people disagreeing over facts and those that are relying attacking the people involved. Most differences of opinion are just that and can be left on your page. Attacks, however, should be eliminated. Even in a controversial campaign, people will usually behave with warnings and as they observe the moderation / elimination of caustic comments.

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Engaging with Facebook

Posted in community

This past week, I had the opportunity to chat with a community group who wanted to learn more about how to spread its message on Facebook.

And, for most emergency situations, we dont ever worry about how to spread our messages because people actively crave information during times of crisis.

This means that good information about emergency responses spreads quickly, but how does one spread messages on Facebook when there isnt an active emergency? What about those public education campaigns about preparedness? Do you ever feel frustrated that your non-emergency messages arent seeming to get much traction?

Lets chat about a few ways to ensure that your messages will reach as many people as possible.

First and foremost, if you are administering a fan page on Facebook, spend some time building your Facebook community.

  • If you have employees or volunteers to your agency, ask them to follow your Facebook page. Be sure that those you work with most closely know that you are actively sharing key information on Facebook.
  • If you follow or like a Facebook page, spend a few minutes to invite your Facebook friends to also like the page. In the left hand side of any Facebook page, youll see an option that says Invite Your Friends to like this page

Then, as a follower of a page, there are 4 basic actions that you can take:

  1. You can like the posts of a page. This important because when you like content on Facebook, it will show up in the activity column that shows up on the right hand side of your desktop view of Facebook. Friends are often snoopy and may click on your actions to see what you are liking.
  2. You can comment on posts of the page. Comment also show up in both the news feeds and activity column, thus sharing your activity even broader than just liking content.
  3. You can click-through to the articles and links posted by the page. This is important because Facebook is actively calculating whether or not the links being shared by the page are interesting to its followers. Because Facebook is actively trying to weed out spam, it is looking for pages that getting likes, but may not be posting quality content.
  4. You can share posts by the page you are following. By sharing interesting posts to your friends, you broaden the reach of an initial post. When you click the share button, look at who you are sharing the content with. To the left of the cancel button on the share window, it may say Friends. Change this to public so that not only your friends see the content, but friends of friends see the content. This allows your posts to have a much broader reach than just your friends.

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Today, we sit on the eve of September 1st which is the 10th Year of..

National Preparedness Month!

This month is focused on getting people to think about and take action towards becoming better prepared.

For many emergency service organizations, event planning is underway for various community events, CERT trainings and open houses to put services and activities on display.

And although being prepared is EVERYONES RESPONSIBILITY, there are still just a handful of events that everyone can participate in through the avenue of social media.

They include.

  • 30 Days, 30 Ways which, started in Washington, provides a daily challenge and call-to-action. Players and observers are asked to consider taking one simple step per day to get them more ready for future crises that you may encounter. Not only will the tasks cause you to think, but you can win prizes and will meet others who are participating in preparing themselves as well. You can follow the game on Facebook at and on Twitter by following @30days_30ways or the hashtag #30days30ways
  • Emergency Kit Cook-off which, started in Arizona, provides a specialized set of shelf-stable ingredients which the public can vote on until midnight of 9/1/14. Players and observers are then challenged to make a great recipe involving the specific ingredients. This will creatively cause you to think about items you might be stuck cooking with if disaster were to strike in your local area. You can follow this challenge on Facebook at and on Twitter by following @kitcookoff or the hashtag #KitCookoff

The American Red Cross has some creative partnerships this year that are creative as well for National Preparedness Month. They include:

FEMA also has some helpful tools for local programs to honor National Preparedness Month.

  • Americas Prepareathon which aims to ask people to come together for a National Day of Action on September 30th. You can register your activities at this site.
  • FEMAs Digital Engagement Toolkit also provides emergency services programs with suggested preparedness messages to be used during September

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Messages for D.C.

Posted in challenges vost

This past week was pretty incredible.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know already that I was in Washington D.C. with a host of other friends and folks for the White House Innovation Day. You should read my friend, Kevin Surs post about this rather incredible experience. Another post from Kyle Richardson is available at this link.


@maryjofly & @cherylble

Rather than recount similarly, I thought Id blog today on the messages both shared and observed throughout this trip of a lifetime.

The purpose of our visit was clear: To identify and evaluate the existing challenges surround the use of collaborative technologies and big data in emergency response.

Simply? Why arent every day first responders using social media and data to inform key decisions?

And, over the course of 36 hours, I was able to sit in meetings at the White House, FEMA, Senate, House of Representatives and at our #DC Tweetup that was attended by #SMEM friends, contractors and tech agencies who were discussing these same issues in-depth, resulting in these key messages:

Whole Community Needs Refinement:

While Ill be the first to tell you that I firmly believe in the notion of whole community because I believe that it is everyones responsibility to engage in emergency response, public agencies still struggle with how to incorporate the voice of its residents and digital technology providers. We still see many technology providers aiming to fit their products into the disaster services sphere without the direct involvement of emergency service providers. And, while often, we can see some decent applications of technology, it occurs more by happenstance and not by direct intentional engagement. In order to be effective, the idea of whole community needs to be defined such that it provides quality roles for public safety agencies, other government entities, students, volunteers, private sector, and NGOs.

Rather than Creating Technology Solutions, Government Should Develop Trust & Meaningful Engagement with Tech Developers

Emergency responders should not be making technology and conversely, technology providers should not be leading the emergency response. For years, we have seen public agencies recreate the technical wheels of ideas that were often first birthed in the private sector. For example, government has attempted versions of social networks and damage reporting tools that look similar to both Facebook and Instagram, but few of the public apps have ever caught on in the public sphere like the ones more widely accepted. We have to develop trust and meaningful engagement between both groups so that people can lend their expert perspective into the development of technology and so that we are truly solving problems in a meaningful way.


Resistance to Social Media is Primarily Cultural & Resource-Based

While we still encounter people who are simply opposed to social media, the primary reluctance is often a deficit in the time & space to learn how to use collaborative technologies. And while those of us who use social media know that it allows us to become situationally aware more quickly, to the emergency manager who doesnt yet use social media, the perception still exists that it is one more thing to learn or manage. And, perceptually, this remains a barrier.

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Be Strategic!

Posted in challenges

Writing a social media strategy does not have to be long and complicated.

I am always surprised when people tell me that they have no strategy. And while it seems comfortable to a fair number of businesses to wing it and see what comes naturally, that rarely works for long.

Initially, people will have ideas for their social media posts, but after a while, they grow tired or become unsure about what types of messages to post on their social accounts.

A simple exercise can step you through the basic questions that all leadership teams should consider as they draft their social strategy.

These questions are:

  • Who Are Your Target Audiences?
  • What Are Your Communication Goals?
  • What Types of Messages Further Your Communication Goals?
  • Which Social Platforms will Help You Reach both your Target Audience With Your Message Types?
  • How Do You Plan to Archive Your Social Footprint? (If you are not a public agency, you can skip this step)
  • What Are the Next Steps that You Need to Do to Accomplish Your Social Strategy?

I spent some time recently writing a social media strategy for my current agency, so here is a sample of how easy this can be.

Who Are Your Target Audiences?

  • Residents of my county
  • Public Safety Agencies within my county
  • My agency employees
  • Other 9-1-1 Agencies

What Are Your Communication Goals?

  • Become the public’s trusted voice on issues pertaining to 9-1-1 here in my county
  • Educate the public & dispel rumors/myths relating to services, technologies and public education messages provided by this agency
  • Engage in conversations to enhance understanding of 9-1-1 services within my county through presence, answering questions and being a public face to our local community
  • Human Resources & Employment Opportunities at my agency (i.e. providing a look “behind the curtain” of what it’s like to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher)
  • Provide factual information to residents on ballot-related items that affect agency services to our community
  • Provide a social presence that showcases staff talent and earns the respect of my employees & user agencies
  • Enhance relationship with the news media
  • Amplify messages of public safety agencies with my county
  • Amplify messaging, as appropriate & relative to our target audience, from our professional associations and state-level committees

What Types of Messages Further Your Communication Goals?

  • Status updates about 911 service disruptions & telephone outages,
  • Technology upgrades (and what they mean to residents),
  • Public Education Outreach (events, photos & key messages),
  • Emergency Alert Messages,
  • Employment opportunities,
  • Agency awards, accreditation, honors or best practices (w/congratulations to partner agencies as well),
  • Factual Information about ballot measure issues,
  • Reshares of local public safety agencies & emergency management agencies in our jurisdiction,

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DC Tweetup?

Posted in community

About a week from now, a number of #SMEM folks will be converging on Washington D.C. to attend the White House Innovation for Disaster Response & Recovery Day on Tuesday, July 29th.

And, if youve ever met me, you know that I love to meet folks that Ive only chatted with on Twitter or other social media platforms. Because, while chatting over Twitter is great, its only the beginning of our potential friendship. There are connections, memories and just plain awesome things that happen when youre able to share a hug over your favorite beverage.

So, we cant let this opportunity go by without aiming to connect as many #SMEM folks as possible. If you are heading to Washington D.C. or you live close enough to visit us tourists, fill out the following form so that I can get a headcount of who all might be available to get together. Its also tremendously important for making restaurant reservations since group dining in D.C. can be a little bit tricky.

Once I have some reservations in place, Ill jet an email to everyone who has RSVPed. Of course, if you dont RSVP, you can likely catch up with us on Twitter on the 28th or 29th, but it might be standing room only for you.

Hope to see you there! If not, Im sure you can watch us all tweeting under whatever hashtag organically comes to be. I know Ill have #GirlInTheCity going and I suspect #WHsmem or something else will get cross-tweeted to the #SMEM tag so yall can join the fun from wherever you are.


Cheryl Bledsoe (@cherylble)

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