I didn’t know social media did all THAT

What. A. Week.  Seriously! I’m calling a time out for this week! Maybe even this month.  In true “when it rains, it pours” fashion, this last week has taken my battered brain on an intense ride.

I can’t focus on all of these events at once so I’m going to do like these disasters do.  Start local and submerse myself within the realm of social media and its impact on the local response and responder.  We’ll start with last Friday.  On April 12, 2013, a local college experienced an incident in which two women received non-fatal gunshot wounds.  Allow me, if you will, to take you on a little tour of these events.

At 1:52 p.m., the alleged gunman posted a picture of the entrance to the school, which is a satellite wing located in the local mall (another focal point of mine in disaster) to an online forum used by students.  At 1:55, dispatch received a call of shots fired within the building and police raced to respond, and 17 minutes later the local newspaper made its first Tweet about the event.

Within eight minutes of that, I had joined many other Tweeters in retweeing this information.  This continued until they conducted their first press conference, which was held at an astonishing time of 3:00 p.m.  It was also live tweeted by the local news.  The first interviews were done within this time frame and shared across Facebook and Twitter, just as the first photos were taken by a personal cell phone and shared in the same manner.

From threat to action to press conference and beyond, social media made the awareness of this event lightening fast.  Generally speaking, the race to gather information and put it out as quickly as possible has led the public to demand answers just as immediately.  Social media has not only supported the expectations for this, but it has changed the role the public has in disaster as well.

Suddenly, everyone is a reporter.  Everyone is a photographer.  Everyone is an investigator, surreptitiously accessing information because they can.  And they have an unlimited audience.  Though this blog is about the impact of social media on a local scale, I’d be remiss in failing to address the fact that authorities have actually started relying on these facts, specifically referencing the call for copies of personal photos and videos by the amateur reporter public.

Social media has become a conduit in which threats are made, and its users automatically become affiliated with some part of the response the moment they see or hear and report this information.  It’s become a crisis counseling or critical incident debriefing method as users are consistently able to share their experiences, fears, and concerns in ways they may otherwise never admit talking to you or I face to face.

Point being?  Social media is already integrating our communities into our response whether they like it or not.  Whether we like it or not.  If we’re not integrating that into our response, we’re refusing to engage the public in a way many of them can process, connect with, identify with or understand.  Social media plans need to be in the planning, the response AND the recovery.  Otherwise, our community is going to force us there and we won’t be ready to use their valuable information, or take advantage of opportunities to support community resiliency.

Even on the most basic, local scale, social media served a multitude of roles.  I know I’m not afraid to use these tools to meet my team members and my community where they’re at.  I hope you aren’t either.

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About tjlasagna

Wife, mom, musician, writer, emergency management lover. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Posted on April 18, 2013, in Planning, Preparedness, Response and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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