Connect, Collaborate, Contribute

November Newsletter

21 Nov 2017 7:07 AM | Anonymous
What's Happening?
  • 2-Year Anniversary of Virtual EMA
  • Welcome to our new Board Member, Patrice Cloutier
  • Open #SMEMChat for Thanksgiving Weekend 
  • VOST Training on Fridays / Saturdays
What's Happened?
  • International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM) VOST Presentation
  • Crisis Communications Exercise in Australia

What's Being Planned?

  • Partnership Opportunity with Dr. Lise St. Denis
  • VOST Leadership Coalition Moves to Monthly Meetings in January 
  • #SMEMBowl Being Planned for Super Bowl LII
  • Partnership between IAEM and Canada VOST

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 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 We will post the January-March calendar next month. 

Just a reminder about the numbers of our classes:

  • 000-090 Classes are geared towards VOST Team Administrators / EM Agencies
  • 100-190 Classes are theory-based, conceptual and geared towards VOST Team Members
  • 200-290 Classes are meant to be a platform-specific deep dive for VOST Team Members
  • 300-390 Classes are geared towards VOST Team Leaders and focus on team management

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:

  • Partnership with Dr. Lise St. Denis: Lise is currently working on a machine classifier that she and her colleagues are using within Earth Lab to organize social media content around disasters. Based on prior research, it could be highly useful for emergency responders in real-time. She is currently working with the AWS Disaster Response Team to explore how they would implement a real-time social media monitoring application in the cloud and to make it available to the emergency response community.  
  • In parallel, Dr. Denis is working with a data visualization expert on interactive components that she anticipates publishing for use on the front-end as a user-configurable dashboard along with a monitoring API.  She would love to work with any members of the VOST/Virtual EMA community who are interested in helping with the design of a front-end tool. Their goal is to have the first iteration available by next fire season. Anybody who is interested in collaborating in the spring on the front-end, please contact Dr. Denis via email at
  • VOST Leadership Coalition moves back to Monthly Calls: This past week, we hosted another quarterly call of VOST Leadership Coalition friends. The group agreed that quarterly calls were allowing too much time to pass between get-togethers. So, starting in January, we will resume meeting on the 3rd Friday of each month at 12p Pacific Time / 3p Eastern Time. Our Events Calendar will be updated shortly to reflect these new meeting times. 
  • #SMEMBowl Will Return on February 4th, 2018: Virtual EMA will again host an exercise in conjunction with the Super Bowl football game. More details soon....
  • Canada's IAEM Chapter to Partner with #CanVOST:  The Canadian Virtual Operations Support Team or CanVOST is in the process of establishing a relationship with IAEM-Canada. The purpose of any future partnership would be to increase the knowledge and acceptance of digital volunteers by the broad emergency management community.

    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


Virtual EMA is a registered public charity with 501(c)(3) status. 

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