Blog

Social Media Study

Social media and frist responders


To coincide with hurricane season, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Virtual Social Media Working group released best practices and social media guidance for emergency responders.


With the 2014 hurricane season upon us, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) recently released Using Social Media for Enhanced Situational Awareness and Decision Support, which contains best practices and guidance on using social media platforms within the public safety and emergency response communities.

 

The report introduces ways social media platforms can be used for situational awareness in public safety. It addresses various challenges associated with the use of social media for situational awareness, the integration of social media within the operational environment, and identifies areas requiring further consideration, research, and development.

The public safety community leverages various data sources – including land mobile radio, maps, computer-aided dispatch, crisis management systems, traffic cameras, geographic information systems, and windshield assessments – to achieve and maintain situational awareness throughout all phases of the disaster lifecycle. During recent high-impact and high-visibility disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon attack, additional information sources revealed themselves.

The proliferation and widespread use of mobile devices to share information, photos, and videos via social media, text message, and email provides responders with real-time, dynamic data that can help establish situational awareness, assist in decision making, and better inform the public. The amount and speed of the available information, coupled with an inability to identify, verify, coordinate, aggregate, and contextualize it, often leaves data and information unused and un-actionable, however.

The VSMWG’s May 2013 publication, Lessons Learned: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy, identified several technology, process, and policy gaps associated with the use of social media for situational awareness, including:


  •  Difficulty locating and sharing available information and resources
  •  An inability to contextualize and integrate social media within the larger information environment 
     and public safety operations workflow
  •  An inability to vet and validate social media data
  •  A lack of guidance on the integration of social media data within incident command
  • Concerns with existing tools and technology development


About the VSMWG

DHS S&T established the VSMWG in December 2010 to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies.

Comprised of a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal responders from across the United States, the VSMWG establishes and collects best practices and solutions that can be leveraged by public safety officials and responders throughout the nation’s emergency response community.

For more information on the group’s previously published reports, please click here.