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SMusion Centers

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This week’s announcement of the Red Cross and Dell’s collaboration in opening an innovative digital operations center is a giant step forward in incorporating social media efforts in crisis response.  The Red Cross has been a thought leader and champion in leveraging the crowd and cloud and helping folks after their worlds are blown away.  Now, they better make it work!  Public expectations for information and engagement skyrockets when they come up out of their basements.  I hope they will be able to sustain the operation and attract enough competent digital volunteers to pull it off.

Building credibility and support in using social media tools before crisis goes a long ways once trouble strikes. But, you have to work at least a hundred times as hard in maintaining it after the ‘big one’ hits. I wonder; how many emergency response agencies are prepared to drink from the information fire hose, and who has the time and resources to engage at the level our citizens expect when feces hits the oscillator?

The feds and states have thrown tons of money at building intelligence “fusion centers” across the country.  Designed to monitor, collect and distribute threat intelligence information across the various law enforcement silos these centers help (theoretically) break down institutional barriers that were suspected in missing key clues in 2001.  They serve an important, albeit narrow purpose in gathering and disseminating threat intelligence.

What if we use a similar approach for crisis situational awareness and messaging for government emergency response agencies? Many regional and local emergency response agencies-including mine don’t have the staff or resources for a robust  social media engaged presence, and things are not going to improve anytime soon.   Many of us have contracts with private companies for mass-notification services, but rely on our own resources for situational awareness and engagement.  I have no illusion that we would be able to effectively monitor and engage at the level our public expects if things start blowing up.

Hmmm… Is there a market for subscription based SMusion (“Smoosion”) Centers? Perhaps a  privately held business with professional PR/ICS staff and resources ready to immediately listen, interpret, inform and engage citizens during crisis? SMusion staff could provide summary crowd information and analytics to Incident Command to assist in situational awareness, messaging and resource deployment. In regional disasters (earthquakes, weather events, etc..), having access to a robust and well staffed resource that can assist locally, yet also monitor regional impacts would be a huge benefit.

Maybe this could be my encore career. That, or maybe I could get a job as a  “word butcher”.   Hmmm…..

Comments - Add Yours

  • http://twitter.com/patricecloutier Patrice Cloutier (@patricecloutier)

    Hello Bill … i think that`s great idea and one that`s already been explored by the people behind VOST … perhaps it needs just a bit more structure along the lines you describe …

  • Jeffrey Bezore

    In these austere times a SMusion Center is going to be a hard sell. A couple of SM Specialists assigned to the Situation Unit may be the interim solution to demonstrate the value added by SM in the disaster.

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.