Had #SMEMWater been an emergency event in my jurisdiction, generating the same amount of Twitter traffic as we saw today, it would only have taken me 11 minutes to cry uncle. And that is a sobering realization….
You see, I’m a skilled emergency manager who can juggle many plates at once. I know firsthand how information surges during crisis. My normal daily email intake ranges from 150-200 emails per day when there are no active emergencies and during crisis, that number swells to nearly 200 per hour during any event.
In my Emergency Operations Center (EOC), there is a special role for a volunteer to simply read my emails and filter out what requires immediate reply. I must be responsive to what counts and turn down the noise on what doesn’t.
Today, during the #SMEMWater exercise, I was personally excited to determine how long it would take the inflow of traffic to overwhelm my ability to keep up with it. I did preset my Tweetdeck columns with hashtags and Tweetgrid with search windows, presuming that it would frustrate me to spend time logging into those platforms. I also had my Google document established so that I could easily transfer “activities” into the living columns.
And at 12:41 EST, Tweetdeck was officially moving faster than I could keep up with it.
You see, it wasn’t that I was struggling to read every tweet, but the reality was, I had to filter tweets to see if:
- They contained unique information,
- Were simply a retweet of information already seen,
- Provided any information that needed to be clarified, or
- Credited someone else with its source.
If I only had to read the tweets, I could tell you that I likely could have kept up with the flow of information. But because I had to mentally apply to brain power to filter, I learned that social media monitoring clearly requires at least 2-3 people right from the start in an emergency environment.
The other piece of news, I was sitting in my office chair, managing this incident for 3 hours straight from 12p-3p EST (which was the amount of time it took me to enter all of the data received from 60 minutes of exercise play). I could not have done this for 12 straight hours.
As an emergency manager, I will be rethinking the length of social monitoring shifts as I was beyond beat up after 3 hours of direct computer time. Just a few things to think about. Imagine if this had been an event that:
- Caught your EOC by surprise,
- Took an hour to mobilize your responding staff to your Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and
- Set your monitors in shifts that are typically 12 hours long.
I had the bird’s eye view to experience this first hand today and I can tell you, I learned enough to know that I have a few staffing issues to sort out that I had never considered before.
11 minutes can bury you. Are you ready?