Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator has become a Tweetin’ fool. He has gone social media bonkers and found real-time information religion. Hallelujah! One of the top dogs in DHS gets it, and more importantly is talking (and texting) about it. Good for you @CraigatFEMA! I appreciate your vision, embracing what tens of millions of folks are already doing; talking with their digits at light speed (like my 16 year old daughter). I have been telling anyone who will listen about the benefits of exploiting SM before, during and after emergencies. Just makes too much sense. But, in my world- the public sector- I encounter many cautioning about lack of security, no control over the backbone and/or platform, spam, hijacked identity/sites, you name it. All are valid points. But, you know what? In a big time crisis event, I don’t have time to spool up the “secure” SM program that I only use once in a blue moon, and no one else even knows it exists. I also won’t be relying only on SM to get my message out. But, you can bet I will make sure it is being used to hear what others are saying, and how many are saying the same thing as quickly as possible.
SM is just one tool (albeit a really big and handy tool, kinda like a Halligan tool….yeah, I’m a fire guy) in the intelligence/information toolbox. It is the one tool that you can use to pry open the “real time reality can” and see what comes out. You can also use it to bust through the vacuum of information and reach thousands, if not millions, of inquiring minds; some of really need your information because they are having their worst day too.
OK, enough preaching….See how easy it is to fall into the evangelical realm of SM for emergency response? The real purpose of this post was to stimulate minds to figure out where SM fits within the well defined emergency incident management structure called Incident Command System (ICS). I’ve been mulling this over for a bit, and am narrowing my perspective down to four areas of ICS that make the most sense to me:
- Command Staff (Public Information Officer/Joint Information Center)
- Planning (Situation Unit)
- Intelligence (wherever the heck it ends up in the ICS structure for a particular incident…don’t get me started…)
- Policy Group – I know, this aspect isn’t technically part of the organizational chain of command under an IC…. BUT, they are the key stakeholders and better be kept happy and in the loop. (See my previous post for more perspective on this)
Placing SM monitoring, messaging and most importantly engagement with the PIO/JIC is a no-brainer. Setting up effective SMEM operations is the challenge. The PIO doesn’t have enough hands to do it all, especially if real time SM information sharing is critical. During those times, I’ve been tempted to roust my daughter out of bed and haul her to the scene to transcribe SM and SMS messages (She’s unbelievably fast on a cell phone – worn out 3 in two years). Incorporating SM emergency engagement takes savvy folks, focused solely on this type of messaging. It helps if they also understand emergency operations and ICS concepts. This is a rare breed currently. But, in another ten years, we’ll be taking this resource for granted. The challenge will be to make sure they are strategically sharing accurate information.
Just to make sure my comments section lights up, I’d like to suggest the NIMS/ICS gurus look at the ever increasing important role the Intelligence/Information plays today. Perhaps the ICS structure should be expanded to include a defined Intelligence Section, with requisite information monitoring, analysis, dissemination and engagement units. It still fits within span of control for ICS. Just a thought, don’t slit my tires…. But, I have sensed a lack of clear understanding of how and where the intelligence mission and related components fit into traditional IMS/ICS. I think we had a general idea when the concept was first introduced. But, then SM exploded. We need to figure it out…. fast, and more importantly teach it to those of us on the front lines who have to implement it (in real time).
More thoughts to come on integrating SM into Planning and Policy Group activities.