Our focus this month, and really for the past few months, has been on social media and its various uses in the field of emergency management. A recent situation, as in one that just occurred a few hours ago, has once again highlighted, underscored, bold-face-typed the need for emergency response agencies to actively monitor and use social media outlets, namely Twitter.
If an agency waits to address an emergency situation until all the facts are in, they are already at a disadvantage and wasting time reacting to the information that the public has already put out there in 140 characters or less. It is far more advantageous to acknowledge that a situation has occurred, it is being handled and more information will be shared as it becomes available. With regard to the Discovery Building gunman, as quickly as the first employee became aware of the situation, #Discovery became a trending hashtag on Twitter and the race for information was on.
In minutes, Twitter junkies and the internet-savvy had the gunman’s name, found his Myspace page, webpage, blog page and various YouTube videos. Obviously, no agency can compete with young people with an abundance of technological expertise and time on their hands. However, any strides that agencies are able to make into the world of social media are worthwhile.
Please take a minute to check out this article from Elizabeth Chuck at msnbc.com regarding how quickly information can get out in this age of Twitter.
Social media matters and it's not going away. As much as it seems to be the hot new thing right now, I don't believe that it will go the way of pet rocks, pogs and Members Only jackets. With its myriad uses in the world of emergency notification, combined with the public's seemingly insatiable quest for instant knowledge, this is one techno-fad that is here to stay.