Blogs You Might Want to Check Out:
What's Being Planned?
Happy 2nd Birthday to Virtual EMA
On 11/11/17, Virtual EMA celebrated its 2nd birthday as an organization. Over the last 2 year, we've had a lot of opportunities to connect, share information, regularly facilitate #SMEMChat and continue to have a leadership role in the development & standardization of Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST).
And beyond our 2 years, November 11th also celebrated the 7th Anniversary of the conversation on Twitter where the hashtag #SMEM was used for the first time on Twitter. If you aren't familiar with it, #SMEM stands for Social Media & Emergency Management. And it wasn't the first acronym proposed.
Welcome Virtual EMA's Newest Board Member
We are super excited to announce the addition of our newest Board Member, Patrice Cloutier. Patrice is no stranger to the world of #SMEM as he was one of the original bloggers back in the early days of online collaboration. We reminisced recently about how many of us jumped into blogging in those first few years including Jim Garrow, Kim Stephens, Chief Bill Boyd, Cheryl Bledsoe and Patrice Cloutier.
Patrice lives and works in Canada and has recently moved out of the government sector and into the world of corporate crisis communication efforts. Patrice has been an active advocate and leader with the #CanVOST team as well. We look forward to working with Patrice during his tenure as a Board Member.
#SMEMChat Takes a Holiday
This Friday, many of our colleagues within the United States will be celebrating their Thanksgiving holiday weekend. For this reason, #SMEMChat will take a hiatus from being facilitated by @VirtualEMA. Of course, everyone is welcome to chat online during the hour of 9:30a Pacific / 12:30p Eastern on any topic they wish. We just won't have the standard set of 5-7 questions around a specific topic.
On a related note, if you are ever interested in hosting #SMEMChat, feel free to reach out to Cheryl (@cherylble) or via email at email@example.com. We'd be happy to mentor, load your questions into the stream, or point folks towards you as the facilitator. We want to be as inclusive as possible
Friday & Saturday VOST Training Classes
We have recently started delivering training for Virtual Operations Support Teams on both Fridays and Saturdays. This is in response to requests to provide training in non-traditional hours so that folks who support VOST Teams may be able to find training in hours they might be available.
Currently, we have training posted through the end of the year at www.virtualema.org/events. We will post the January-March calendar next month.
Just a reminder about the numbers of our classes:
IAEM Conference in California
This past week, a number of #SMEM friends and Virtual EMA members were busy presenting at the International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM) conference.
If you watched or look back to the #IAEM17 hashtag, you'll find Chris Tarantino presenting on #VOST, Sarah Miller and Mary Jo Flynn also shared stages to talk about platforms like Next Door and other emerging technologies.
Kudos to all of these #SMEM folks for their part in educating our emergency management colleagues on how technology can be used to respond and recover in disasters.
Comms Connect Conference in Melbourne, Australia
This week, Caroline Milligan delivered a workshop on crisis communications and the importance of filtering and monitoring social media during periods of crisis. In providing hands-on instruction, Caroline facilitated an exercise using a "thunderstorm asthma" scenario. Virtual EMA Board Members all were able to support the exercise online with exercise messages planted into the stream for participants to find.
The hashtag for this conference was #CommsMELB if you'd like to take a peek. Great job, Caroline!
What's Being Planned?
There are lots of exciting things in the works that we'd like to share with you so you can start planning about how to engage with these cool opportunities:
Key to moving this forward, will be promoting CanVOST as a resource for all levels of government and large agencies in Canada. Already "battle" proven through support of the Red Cross for the Calgary Flood and to the Alberta Emergency Management Agency for the Fort McMurray fire. digital volunteers can have a role in every EOC across the land.
Having CanVOST accepted as a national resource offering surge capability to any municipality, provincial EM agency during an incident. will only work through close collaboration with key officials. This is therefore where the focus on the team will reside over the next few months. More information will follow as it becomes available
Mark Your Calendars
What Happened to September?
If you were wondering what happened to our September newsletter, we missed writing one this past month because we, along with so many emergency responders, were extremely busy. Between National Preparedness Month and so many significant disasters and tragedies, it was hard to find time to draft this monthly missive. But we're back this month with lots of fun news for you!
Hat Tip to Busy Digital Volunteer Groups
Since the end of August, so many digital volunteer groups have been CRAZY busy with important digital work in support of hurricanes, wildfires, the Las Vegas shooting and other key initiatives. We want to express our full gratitude to each and every person who has been involved in these efforts.
Your work is important and sometimes unseen by some, but we are incredibly impressed by your commitment and support to help these affected communities.
Here are just a couple of glimpses of the work:
SMEM Survey Open for Responses
The University of Hawaii at Manoa has posted a survey entitled "Trust and Social Media for Emergency and Disaster Management" which is asking for public engagement.
Now, this survey is rather interesting for those of us who have been working in #SMEM for quite some time as it makes some assumptions that platforms can be ranked in terms of trustworthiness. While we may not agree with how some of these questions are asked, we hope that each of you will fill this out to provide your comments and opinions so that these researchers may better understand how social media relates to emergency management.
SMWG Research Underway
The Department of Homeland Security's Social Media Working Group (formerly the Virtual Social Media Working Group) has been working with contractors from Corner Alliance on a research project to identify and share innovative social media practices from public safety communities nationwide in support of S&T First Responder Group.
The goal of the project is to provide emergency managers (EMs) and public information officers (PIOs) with timely and useful resources to utilize social media as a force multiplier in a way that best meets their community’s needs. Based upon guidance from experts in the field, the team will develop practical how-to guidance on:
Building a social media business case; and
Incorporating digital volunteers into day-to-day and surge operations with a focus on planning considerations, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) templates, and other helpful resources.
Cyber Security & Digital Etiquette Resources
This past week, #SMEM friends Sarah Miller (@scba on Twitter) and Alisha King (@alisha_beth) shared a great presentation on cyber security and digital etiquette to a room full of 911 professionals at an Oregon APCO Conference. Their presentation was well-received and reminded us all that cyber security is everyone's personal responsibility.
From avoiding social engineering to regularly updating your devices that rely on wi-fi, they shared a number of good resources which included the following good ideas:
VOST Training Scheduled Posted
We have posted all sorts of fun training for the rest of this year. New this quarter will be classes offered on Saturdays in order to better reach folks who work regularly during the week.
These classes offer a great small-group atmosphere where participants have the opportunity to ask questions to ensure full understanding of what working with or on a Virtual Operation Support Team means.
As always, these classes are free for members and $10 for non-members. If you sign up and can't attend, you will still receive a copy of the presentation and materials shared.
Sign up for one of the following webinars today!
Mark Your Calendars
There are a number of events going on in our virtual community that you might be interested in participating in. Here is a short list with links:
Make Your Day GREAT!
Due to the busy month of disaster activations, no newsletter was created for this month
This month, there were a lot of interesting social media articles that were posted across the internet.
The Great Solar Eclipse on August 21st has spawned a number of articles about how local emergency management agencies prepared to watch social media. Two specific articles discussed how the both the State of Oregon and State of Idaho monitored and engaged with social media to gauge their responses to this historic event. And then there was South Carolina's lizard men, right?
Next up is an article about the triangulation of social media users is being studied to determine if there is a better way to disseminate and monitor social media. We know there have been a number of groups who have studied this topic before, but we remain curious to see if anyone can automate what is often done by Virtual Operation Support Teams in a more manual manner today.
Wildfires and social media continue to appear hand-in-hand throughout our communities. While we have seen this for years, it's nice to see the research concur.
A Canadian study was published recently about how social media training and community support are vital tools needed to manage any terrorism-based event. This report has a lot of recommendations for law enforcement agencies.
Article 3 covers how social media affects the adolescent brain. This is of particular importance to consider with the recent focus on teen suicides due to the Blue Whale Challenge. Read The Adolescent Brain and the Dark Side of Social Media Challenges for more information.
#SMEMChat on Twitter each Friday at 9:30 PDT
Each Friday at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time, people gather on Twitter to chat about Social Media & Emergency Management (#SMEM).
If you need to practice your Twitter engagement skills, consider joining a chat. Check out our #SMEMChat Webpage to read the chat archives or lurk the conversations.
VOST Training Scheduled Posted
We have posted all sorts of fun training for the rest of this summer. Sign up for one of the following webinars today!
Each Friday at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time, people gather on Twitter to chat about Social Media & Emergency Management (#SMEM). This Friday's (July 21) topic will be Texting and Messaging Apps
If you need to practice your Twitter engagement skills, consider joining a chat. Check out our #SMEMChat Webpage to read the chat archives or lurk the conversations.
Join the Virtual EMA Board
The Virtual EMA Board provides regular input about the activities and direction of our Association. Recently, one of our Board Members, Kim Stephens, took a full-time position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which limited her ability to participate on our Board. We sincerely thank Kim for all of her contributions in developing our outreach and technical sponsorship benefits. She has been a true leader on our Board.
This means recruitment is open for a new position. We are specifically looking for creative thinkers who are willing to engage in discussion about strategic direction, work to influence and develop new partnerships and opportunities for our membership. If this is something of interest to you, please apply for consideration at this link: https://goo.gl/forms/uMCCAZ81J7sV3mrw2.
We will evaluate applications mid-July, but keep the recruitment open until filled. This, like all positions within the Virtual EMA organization, is a volunteer service position.
Thank You, Social Media Working Group
Over the past two newsletters, we have been encouraging folks to submit feedback to FEMA in the open comment period on the Resource Management set of documents from a social media perspective. And, the active Social Media Working Group (SMWG) put together a great set of recommendations about incorporating social media considerations into each and every document FEMA set out for review. These recommendations are appreciated and supported by Virtual EMA.
If you are not familiar with the excellent work done by the Social Media Working Group, check out their Information Page and set of documents that their committee members have been instrumental in creating. Excellent work, SMWG!
Facebook Mapping Tool Announced
On June 7th, Facebook announced the presence of aggregated maps which should be available in times of emergencies which will illustrate location information for people who make this information publicly available.
Facebook has been using their "safety check" feature regularly in large emergency situation. Its utility during emergency response operations is still largely in question as recent conversations online have wondered aloud whether the presence of this feature could actually create more anxiety among social circles or less as people check-in. We do, however, applaud Facebook's interest in using their platform to provide emergency information and hope they are actively working with emergency managers to develop life-saving tools for our communities.
Join #SMEMChat on Twitter each Friday at 9:30 PDT
Each Friday at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time, people gather on Twitter to chat about Social Media & Emergency Management (#SMEM). These past 2 months, Virtual EMA has really enjoyed developing topics and drafting questions for conversation. Using the #SMEMChat hashtag, the chats have really been fun.
If you need to practice your Twitter engagement skills, consider joining a chat. We also have developed a webpage that will allow you to watch or "lurk" the conversation as it happens at THIS LINK.
"Until Help Arrives" Webinar on June 15th
The National Homeland Security Consortium is hosting a webinar discussion on June 15th at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Register HERE to participate in this webinar.
As part of America’s PrepareAthon!, FEMA has created a new initiative dedicated to helping the public be prepared to respond, until help arrives, in the event of an emergency. For more information on the program and to download the course materials, go the program website at https://community.fema.gov/until-help-arrives.
VOST 020 and 100 Training Scheduled in June
On Friday, June 16th, Virtual EMA will present a one-hour training webinar on Policy Development for Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST). If you are an agency, developing a virtual team, we welcome you to listen to experienced VOST Administrators talk about how they developed their Field Operations Guide for use of their VOST team. REGISTER AT THIS LINK.
Then,on Friday, June 30th, Virtual EMA will present a one-hour training webinar on what it's like to be a team member of a Virtual Operation Support Team (VOST). We will be covering the basics of a VOST activation, provide examples of mission completion and how you can be best prepared to become a successful VOST Team Member. REGISTER AT THIS LINK.
Training is always free to members of Virtual EMA as part of your membership. Class costs for non-members is a nominal $10 per class to encourage attendance and participation. Emergency Management Agencies, who maintain a group membership with Virtual EMA, will receive a class code for their affiliated VOST Team members to participate in training. BECOME MEMBERS AT THIS LINK.
Other Notable Events to Engage With...
There are a number of events going on in our global virtual community that you might be interested in participating in. Here is a short list with links:
Join the Weekly #SMEMChat
Every Friday, for an hour, people gather on Twitter to talk about the intersection of social media and emergency management. While this conversation has occurred pretty organically over the years since it started in 2011, Virtual EMA volunteered to assist in facilitating some conversations after noticing a lull in topic selection in recent months.
For the past 3 weeks, we have enjoyed chatting about future topics, Facebook's hiring of human filters for violent content and Net Neutrality. We have created a website page for #SMEMChat to capture archive links and we will aim to post topics on Sundays so everyone has a few days to consider the topic.
Join us on Twitter at 9:30a Pacific Time / 12:30p Eastern Time or read the archives, generously contributed by Lisa Matheson (@crisiswhisperer) as she posts them.
VOST Leadership Coalition Call This Friday (5/19/17)
This coming Friday at 12:00p Pacific Time is our quarterly VOST Leadership Coalition Conference Call. These regular calls are great opportunities to VOST Team Administrators and Team Leaders to get together and share what their teams have been up to. We aim to learn from each other and chat about what's new in the world of social media monitoring.
Register today for this call to receive the webinar / teleconference information. We will be having a brief presentation from one of our new technical partners, Muster Point, as well at this meeting.
Welcome New Tech Partner: MusterPoint
We’re very excited to partner with MusterPoint. MusterPoint brings cutting edge social media management, monitoring and simulation exercise solutions to Virtual EMAmembers.
This coming Friday, Christine Townsend will provide the VOST Leadership Coalition with a brief overview of the capabilities of this management, monitoring and archiving tool. Stay tuned for more partnership opportunities in the coming months to use and explore this fun tool.
MusterPoint's website is http://musterpoint.io/
NISC Webinar on 6/1/17
The Emergency Services Sector of the National Information Sharing Consortium will be providing a webinar to share information-sharing tools for emergency responders. This webinar will occur at 10:00a Pacific or 1:00p Eastern.
For more information, register today at this link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1316662258169587203
VOST 100 Training Scheduled for 6/2/17
On Friday, June 2nd, Virtual EMA will present a one-hour training webinar on what it's like to be a team member of a Virtual Operation Support Team (VOST). We will be covering the basics of a VOST activation, provide examples of mission completion and how you can be best prepared to become a successful VOST Team Member.
Training is always free to members of Virtual EMA as part of your membership. Class costs for non-members is a nominal $10 per class to encourage attendance and participation. Register at this link for the June 2nd class.
FEMA Documents Out for Review until 6/9/17
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a NIMS Resource Management Supplemental Guide out for open comment from the community. We encourage you to evaluate these documents and provide your thoughts back to FEMA.
The link to access these documents is located by CLICKING HERE.
Comms Connect Conference Outcomes
Guest speakers shared their operational perspective of disasters that had taken place in both Australia and New Zealand and focused on how important communications were during these times, including real life examples of the challenges the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams are faced with and how evolving technologies are being used to provide solutions.
Read more: http://www.arcia.org.au/news-events/article/157/taking-a-walk-through-te-papa-at-comms-connect-new-zealand.html#.WRU-PryGNol
Presentation to the NEMA PIO Committee
On Wednesday, May 10th, Virtual EMA provided a presentation about Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST) to NEMA's PIO Committee. This was an excellent opportunity to share about VOST Teams and we were fortunate to have several state PIO's on the conference call who were able to share first-hand about their experiences with VOST Teams. By sharing samples of "listening reports," it was a great opportunity for team exposure to various state programs all over.
We even learned about VOST Teams that have been in existence for several years in Wyoming, except there, they are called DIRT teams which stands for Digital Information Response Teams. Way to go, Wyoming!
Research Worth Reading
In recent years, information from community members contributed online has proved highly useful in emergencies.
Information sharing activities by private citizens using social media, smartphones, and web mapping tools have been termed volunteered geographic information (VGI), or digital volunteering.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC's Hazard Note 28 examines PhD research by Dr Billy Haworth ( @BillyTusker ) on the potential role of VGI in fostering community engagement in bushfire preparation. This research provides a clearer path for emergency service agencies to best-utilize these technologies for and with communities, helping to increase volunteering sustainability, community engagement and disaster resilience.
VOST Briefing at NEMA Mid-Year
How do you raise awareness of VOST Teams in the United States? If you answered "speak at National Emergency Management Mid-Year Forum in front of many state emergency management directors," you'd win for the right answer.
Earlier this year, we were invited by Oregon's Director, Andrew Phelps, who chairs the NEMA Preparedness Committee, to provide a 10-minute briefing about Virtual Operation Support Teams. This briefing went well and has resulting in additional invitations to brief both the quarterly NEMA Public Information Officers Committee and state directors in several other states.
Situation Report Research Study
While we were in Virginia at NEMA, Virtual EMA members met with Stefanie Wahl of the Free University in Berlin to interview for a study regarding how social media is used to share situation reports during emergencies.
Thanks to Eric Kant, Pascal Schuback and Cheryl Bledsoe who signed the research waivers and shared their experiences with Stefanie for inclusion in her research.
Stefanie and her colleagues interviewed a number of people here in the United States from Florida up through New York on this visit. Once the research is complete, she will provide a copy to us so we can learn about her findings.
NEMA Mid-Year Meet-Up
It is always great to see so many folks at the NEMA Mid-Year. We were fortunate to have great conversations with coordinators from the Social Media Working Group (SMWG), National Information Sharing Consortium (NISC) and a number of representatives from state/local emergency management programs.
We look forward to solidifying a few details about some fun participation opportunities in the coming months. So, stay tuned!
VOST Training Launches
Caroline Milligan and Cheryl Bledsoe delivered our first webinar on March 31st entitled "VOST 010: Why VOST Teams?" which provided a couple of case studies and aimed to share the value of virtual teams. We were thrilled to have about 28 people sign-up for this fun conversation.
Cheryl also unveiled the VOST Training Plan for the coming months. The highlights were this:
If you are a VOST Team Leader and are interested in helping us develop or deliver these classes, please email Cheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org as we welcome your participation.
Register Today: VOST Leadership Coalition
The quarterly VOST Leadership Coalition Meeting will be on May 19th at 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time. We have opened the event invitation so that you can register today so you can chat, share, listen or lurk with team administrators, leaders and members about what's new with your teams. Register today at this LINK!
Are You A Member of Virtual EMA Yet?
Congratulations to the Golden Post Finalists!
On April 11-13, the Government Social Media Conference will be occurring in Dallas, Texas. Each year, this conference awards agencies who have provided excellent examples of social media use during everyday and crisis situations.
The finalist list can be viewed HERE at this link location.
This conference brings together a large number of public information officers and technical companies to look at how the public sector may use social media to promote their missions. Even if you aren't planning on attending, look for the hashtag #GSMCON2017 and follow along on Twitter.
NEMA Mid-Year Forum Activities
Three exciting things will be happening at the NEMA Mid-Year Forum on March 21, 2017.
VOST Training Overview on March 31st
In late February, the VOST Leadership Coalition met for a conference call to chat about how existing teams are doing today. These meetings will continue informally on a quarterly basis. The next teleconference will occur in May.
On March 31st, we will host a webinar to discuss our future VOST Training Plan. If you are considering whether a VOST team can help your organization, we will share our experiences through a couple of key case study examples. We will also share our training vision for the coming months.
While the Training Overview is open to everyone to participation, VOST Training courses will be a membership exclusive in coming months as we want this to be a valuable opportunity for those who are supporting us through membership.
Register today for the March conference call at this link!
Situation Awareness in a World of Alt Accounts
Since our last newsletter, we have sworn in a new President here in the United States which has ushered in a lot of interest and focus on Twitter. Why? Because not only is our Commander-in-Chief still actively using his Twitter account, but because there have been a proliferation of "alt" and parody accounts.
While confirming the origination of Alt accounts can be nearly impossible at times, the presence of so many of these accounts could make obtaining situational awareness during crisis very difficult. If you rely on Twitter to obtain your news, checking sources and multiple account confirmation will become even more important in determining the validity and reliability of information obtained online.
If you want a sample of how complicated it can be to determine validity, check out@RoguePOTUSStaff and ask yourself if it's parody or reality.
Here are some articles about these Alt accounts:
Speaking Opportunity: University of North Texas (UNT)
Luis Tapia teaches a course on technology and emergency management. He is in search of several guest speakers who can provide their insight on technology and disasters.
In addition to a google hangout with several contributors, he is looking for individual guest speakers to discuss the following via Skype:
If you are interested in participating, contact Luis directly at email@example.com.
We have opened an event registration link here so we can get in touch with you directly about details if you are interested in joining us.
VOST Leadership Coalition on February 24
For three years, folks involved in Virtual Operation Support Teams gathered for a monthly conference call to chat about issues relating to team development, activations and emerging tools as the VOST Leadership Coalition.
This group took a hiatus as we got busy building Virtual EMA and we broke up a subcommittee to work on developing training materials. We are getting close to sharing some very exciting developments as we will be kicking on a series of webinars on case studies, team development, policies/procedures, monitoring methods and training/exercise.
In addition to training, we will be hosting quarterly VOST Leadership Coalition Calls with the first one occurring on Friday, February 24th at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Register todayto participate and we'll send you the conference call details.
Virtual EMA is a registered public charity with 501(c)(3) status.