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Tools for the Emergency Information Officer!

There’s only one choice when it comes to emergency communications in the social media environment: to participate or not … Occupy the space – Remember, you can’t head off crisis once it reaches the Net …

So, what does your information officer tool box contain when you are deployed to an emergency?

Traditionally, you head out the door with sufficient clothes to last 14-16 days and your laptop (corporate news release templates on board). You may even have a handy checklist of your emergency information officer duties.

Is this good enough these days?

If you think it is sufficient…you’d better go back to my previous postings and think again.

The instantaneous timelines presented by users of social media, demand some new tools.

Twitter

Twitter gets the word out quickly during an emergency. You can follow the network chatter and step in to set the record straight when necessary. Twitter also allows you an immediate option to post key messages when our traditional websites are unable to post quickly enough to changing events.  But you need to get into the game early and develop followers (including media) or tag onto an existing conversation. The thing is, have you established yourself and/or agency as a ‘credible source’?  See MNRCentral on Twitter.

YouTube, Twitpic

If you have the means to capture video or photos, you can post visual proof that the first responders are operational, on the scene. Link from your Twitter message to the visuals. Keep these video clips short and relevant!

Facebook

Now here’s a tool that desires more attention than we currently give it. Check out BC Fire’s first season (2010) using Facebook. They have made a commitment to resourcing this social media tool and I think the payoff will serve them well. The popular site allows you to easily post text, visuals and see your audience’s responses. See BC Forest Fire Info 0n Facebook.

Skype

Got to get a media interview out quickly? Just having this software onboard your computer will let you get emergency messages across even from remote locations. I called the CBC National news editor to confirm that Skype is their software of choice for capturing interviews when they can’t get a crew out to your location. I know that there are restrictions at this time to uploading these types of software…so lets put a business case together now, so that Skype can be in the tool kit in the future. We are playing ‘catch up’ here!
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Hardware you should consider!

Smart Phones: Blackberries and iPhones with appropriate apps can be on your hip at all times. No need for delays getting a message out!

Video Cams/cameras: Capturing the action where reporters and camera crews are not able to go! That’s the name of the game!

The bottom line to all this is: are we ready…if not, how do we get there?

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Categories: Emergency Management
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