OK, I have to admit it. My blog yesterday about the just released paper called “Transforming the Response Enterprise” ended up a little short on analysis and related opinion. Earlier in the evening Kim Stephens asked me how I was coming along in writing my blog article on the need to define and demonstrate operational benefits discussed in the paper. Oops, forgot all about it. So, I plastered up my stream of consciousness in play at the time. Re-reading it this morning, I see that I did not complete my assignment. Sorry teach (@Kim26Stephens). Please accept my addendum and raise my SMEM grade.
The authors, Wardell III and Su challenged those in the social media and emergency response communities to “Demonstrate the value of integrating social media into operations by capturing improvements in the speed and effectiveness of response.” They go on to suggest “One area where these improvements can potentially be seen most clearly is in realtime disaster relief routing and logistics decision-making.”
“Demonstrate the value…by capturing improvements in the speed and effectiveness of response.” Hmmm….. I get the “speed part”. It is already a game changer for us. There are lots of examples out there about lightning fast dissemination of information, like the poor guy in Pakistan who unwittingly tweeted the ongoing super-secret raid that killed Osama bin Laden. You can’t get much faster than that. But, the authors correctly note the need to document how this speed helps the Incident Commander standing on the street or the Emergency Manager sitting in the emergency operations center (EOC)
In the earliest stages of a large emergency, speed can be friend and foe. The bigger the problem, the more deliberate and careful an Incident Commander needs to be in setting up ICS and safely deploying resources. One aspect where speed is an unequivocal plus in is in gaining situational awareness (size up). The ability to quickly survey real-time data from observers, victims and spontaneous volunteers can be invaluable to an incident commander/management team. But, how do you quantify this to make the case for social media adoption? Will collecting and measuring metrics motivate ICS types in the trenches who can’t be bothered with details? I’m guessin’ not.
So, what will motivate? Don’t give us charts and graphs. Tell us the stories of how SM was creatively used to quickly size up a crisis, facilitating rapid deployment of resources where they are most needed. Tell us how those most vulnerable took actions based on SM alerts and instruction that saved their lives BEFORE the disaster. Better yet, don’t just tell us. SHOW US! Video and photos richly communicate information in ways that cannot be replicated by the written word or graphs alone. We need to create a visceral response if we want to get buy in.
“One area where these improvements can potentially be seen most clearly is in realtime disaster relief routing and logistics decision-making.” Hmmm… This approach works if you want to simply measure how equipment and supplies are moved more efficiently using SM. Pretty clinical… But, equally as important, especially if we are trying to get the buy in from non-adopters is assessing SM’s ability in supporting societal needs in crisis; facilitating creation of ad hoc community support structures, post- traumatic stress coping mechanisms, and the ease and speed of providing accurate and socially relevant information that conveys the agency’s concerns for the citizens are key areas that perhaps should be focused on initially.
Again, I believe we should be placing a ton of emphasis on the societal elements impacted by using SM in crisis. Do the clinical research, then package it the right way. Pretend I’m in kindergarten. Tell me a story. Show me pictures. Make me feel safe. Then, let me take a nap.