My good friend, Adam Crowe (@adamscrowe), recently posted an article with a provocative title, “Is Emergency Management Dead?” where he discusses the changes in emergency management since the days of Civil Defense.
If I read Adam’s intent right, he’s suggesting that emergency management, as a profession, needs to incorporate social communications into its operational processes and ultimately incorporate the general public into our planning methods, but that’s not what I found fascinating about this article….it was the comment stream that ensued afterwards.
It is clear that people took issue with the title about whether or not the profession itself had died rather than considering the opportunities that social communications offers to better involve the public in our planning processes.
What ultimately needs to “die” in the Emergency Management profession is the distrust government officials illustrate regularly over feedback and input that they receive through social platforms from “the general public.” Feedback about our public safety response methods now have the opportunity to play out on a very public stage.
And this isn’t just true of public safety agencies, errant or thoughtless communications are now held instantly accountable in social sphere. Patrice Cloutier (@patricecloutier) effectively addressed two examples of this earlier this week which occurred by the NRA and a celebrity boutique in the wake of the shooting tragedy in Colorado.
No longer do we receive individual emails about the performance of our emergency management programs, but rather, residents may ask questions of curiosity or begin to criticize our practices during the emergency itself. Because Emergency Management, as a profession, is more publicly visible than it once was during the days of civil defense, we must be more ready to answer, address concerns and calculate the impact of our risk communications.
It is time that Emergency Managers all receive training in marketing and risk communication principles. The revolution that is occurring is the fact that we are no longer able to delegate public information to a single communications officer. We all need to understand how public information works and be confident to understand the impact of what we are saying at all times.
When every second counts in life safety issues, being ready to navigate social communications requires us to both be social and excellent communicators.
Earlier this week, the Emergency Management Institute released IS-42 which is an online Social Media in Emergency Management training course which is a good summary of what the next generation of emergency managers will be expected to know as they navigate social communications.
Emergency Management is not dead, but rather will be much more out-of-the-box in coming years than many current professionals are ready to admit. It’s a public stage. Grab the mic and be ready to address, explain, comfort and engage with those that we serve.