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SM – A Virtual Logistics Section?

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Last night,  I finally turned off the New Zealand earthquake information fire hose.  It wasn’t because I had lost interest, but rather I was struggling with filtering relevant and interesting information related to my current interests- rescue efforts, restoration of critical infrastructure, and ad-hoc SM crisis information support.  Before shutting down, I confirmed my earlier fears that the damage and death toll is likely much greater than originally anticipated (usually is), and SM would continue to play a pivotal role in connecting people during crisis- on an international scale.

As I reflect back on the past few days, I tried to envision myself as one of the response leaders charged with getting a handle on the depth and breadth of this mess.  Having dealt with smaller (but large in the general sense) events, I know how slooowwwww information seems to trickle in initially   Gaining situational awareness to make the right call is damn near impossible in the early moments of a large event like the Christchurch quake.  Emergency crews likely picked themselves up off the floor, dusted themselves off, checked on each other and hit the streets to make a difference.  While doing so, they undoubtedly began confronting a myriad of problems,   some of which would have resulted in a “ya’ll come” response on a normal day. But, they likely faced them alone, with the exception of the spontaneous citizen heroes who always make a difference in the initial stages of a huge disaster.

I’m sure the loss of communications infrastructure (phones/cell phones) was extremely frustrating.  The Incident Commanders likely knew they were in midst of a really big deal, confronted with conflicting, overwhelming, underwhelming, emotional and unbelievable information.  I’m sure within a fairly short time  information started flooding in, making it difficult to make sense of it all.  As an objective Twitter observer oceans away I certainly felt that way, via one narrow communications channel.

During this type of  highly dynamic event I’m not sure the availability of social media makes a significant difference in how emergency resources are initially deployed. With that said, I obviously believe in the power of SM in augmenting situational awareness in disasters (along with communicating/engaging).  But, as an Incident Commander in the initial stages of an event, I’m relying heavily on my troops on the street to give me their eyeball view of what is going on to help figure out who gets what, and how much they need.  Once their information starts coming in, I should have a handle on overall “largeness “, helping me build my ICS team, and assign folks to prioritizing problems and allocating resources.  It is during this time that the information available through SM would come into play with my planning/situation unit folks.   In other words, it takes time to get this fully ramped up.

But, that doesn’t mean SM isn’t having an impact on crisis response.  Family members, friends, neighbors and others will immediately reach out to each other through their established networks. This impromptu communications community can mobilize vast amounts of organized help at the speed of light, and provide highly targeted assistance – even on an international scale. Check out this blog for an example what I am talking about:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marie-elena-martinez/social-media-in-a-time-of_b_827378.html

We just need to realize and accept that this type of assistance likely won’t be ordered by my Logistics Section Chief……

 

 

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Comments - Add Yours

  • http://oneforty.com/Hal__G Hal Grieb

    Great Post! Which is why there is a big difference between Command and Coordination. ICs need to worry about their objectives only. Other multi-coordinations systems need to be in place helping filter the noise and supporting their command structures in the field.

    However it is still imperative the command and general staff have an understanding so when someone posts a pic of your resource locations, the Ops Chief can adjust tactically. Just one case in Point: http://yfrog.com/nb7jjj

    This user even posts Mobile command location. If this is a coordinated incident, if I were IC I would like to know quickly if I need to move my ICP.

    • http://chiefb2.wordpress.com chiefb2

      Agreed Hal, good input. My point is at what point is it realistic that we will likely “plug in” to SM for the purposes of gaining situational awareness for planning/operations purposes. The information dissemination aspect is pretty clear. The Planning/situation aspect is not so clear in my mind.

      • http://oneforty.com/Hal__G Hal Grieb

        Which going back to previous discussions I am a proponent of adding the Intell / Information person, section, or unit as deemed by incident or event needs / resources for the assisting the flow in the command structure. Also this enables the multi agency coordination centers to funnel info to and from the noise to the incident as needed as it relates to command needs; the JIC would work similarly ensuring the JIS incorporates PIO related SM items appropriately into that respective discipline and position.

  • Pingback: Social Media for Emergency Management (SMEM) | T3H Blog

About chiefb2

Retired fire chief,Type 3 AHIMT IC, PIO. Current industrial services safety professional, social media emergency management disciple (no, I'm not a "guru"). Crisis communications consultant. Dad with an open wallet.