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Following every disaster, there is a rush to judgment. And Hurricane Sandy is no different…

We all have the ability to observe and evaluate the various stories, experiences and rumors that surface during significant events. But who among us ever has early access to the full story of the hows, the whys and the outcomes that may still yet to be determined?

This past week, I had the opportunity to participate in 3 news media interviews. It was interesting to hear each of the reporters ask for my evaluation of social media use among public agencies in Hurricane Sandy. The rush to obtain a quote of whether the “government” did a good job quickly became a focal point that I could not effectively answer.

Despite my presence in social media and my observation of the use of social media, it would be impossible for me to provide an opinion seeing only the “social media” side to the rubic’s cube.

It’s important for all of us, whether we are active emergency management professionals, volunteers or part of the community who use social media to understand that each of us has a limited perspective.

And while social media affords us the great opportunity to see how the media and general community is interacting with real-time news alerts and sharing information, we are still only seeing parts of the equation being shared on social sites.

Before we judge each other, we must first consider what role each of us can serve in improving emergency response.

No matter what position each of us holds during an emergency, we have the ability to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Are there actions that I took during this past event that could have be done differently?
  • Could I have communicated more effectively with others?
  • Are there new relationships that I could establish before the next disaster that could improve the performance of my role or my understanding of how emergency response works?
  • What challenges did I encounter that could be remedied before the next emergency?
  • What challenges should I be more aware of so I can avoid struggling with this same issue again?

The common denominator in every emergency response is that they involve humans.  Mistakes will be made and communications will be less than effective.

But, if we commit to evaluating what we can control first, which involves our own individual responses, we have the opportunity to improve emergency response from its predictable blame game to one of community-based responsibility.

We all have a role to play in emergency response. What will you learn from yours?

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