challenges Archive

Questions for Big Data

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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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Messages for D.C.

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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.

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@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.

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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!

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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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