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Policy Aftershocks? I hope so

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The little trembler on the east coast yesterday afternoon was fascinating and fun to watch. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for those caught up in it. But for those of us on the “left coast” who have experienced earthquakes it was amusing to see the reactions and behaviors, knowing that there was likely relatively minor damage or injuries. Even so, watching all the major news networks and my fellow Twitter #SMEM compadres observations I noted the following;

  • When the quake hit, it looked like everyone ran outside and stayed there. I’m guessing “drop, cover and hold” drills are not part of their school curriculum or emergency response drills. Would everyone have run outside if it had been 15 degrees in the dead of winter?
  • Tweets traveled faster than the earthquake S waves, meaning folks located hundreds of miles from the epi-center knew about it before they felt it.
  • Major employers (i.e. the federal government) appeared to spontaneously release employees from work. I would not have wished that commute on anyone.
  • The public’s need to validate what they experienced/witnessed once again dropped wireless voice communication systems to their knees. Once again, text messaging appeared to stay “up” even when voice systems were overloaded (same for internet/instant messaging).
  • Twitter and other micro-blogging/SM sites “throttled” emergency response professionals who were using the service to relay important safety and situational awareness information. I’m guessing this was a result of automated sentry settings to deter spammers.
  • Government agencies used Twitter/FB for employee accountability and communications.
  • Lots of hashtags were in play due to the large area affected, making it difficult to gain overall situational awareness. If there had been pockets of focused significant damage/impact, specific hashtag usage would have surfaced for that locale, making it easier to figure out who has the bigger messes to clean up.

I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from a SMEM perspective, just more examples of how SM was used to validate, disseminate and communicate during crisis. But, I’m banking that a bunch of “policy wonks” who rode it out have a new appreciation of the sudden and unnerving impact of natural disasters. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for policy aftershocks. Monday, I fly to Washington D.C. along with SMEM gurus @BrianHumphrey and @MarkBasnight where we will be talking about social media in emergency response at the Technology for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference. I’m guessing the earthquake and Hurricane Irene will be hot topics. Guess I’ll be revising my talking points during my flight, and I think I’ll pack a raincoat.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • http://twitter.com/ldurf Lesley (@ldurf)

    You are absolutely right about the no drills, very few in my office (including me) had any idea what to do and reverted to a very primal response of “the building is in trouble, I should leave it”. Emails have now been sent around my office letting us know the proper procedures.

    I also found it interesting that so much of the social media content had to do with telling people to use social media instead of calling. I’m not sure how effective it was since the people seeing those messages were already on social media.

    Being that it was the first significant EQ in this area in 100 years, I don’t know how beneficial it would be to start a major training effort, but I will say it was extremely scary to have no idea what to do.

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.