It’s about the mobile, not the social

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Social media have become the elephant in the EOC By Doug Page, in Homeland1

First off, I have an issue with the title of Page’s article – is the word social media a singular or a plural? Here, he uses it as a plural and it looks and sounds wrong. But that’s my pet peeve. If he added “tools” after social media, I would feel better.

The article says:

It’s growing so fast, in fact, that one emergency manager says social media have become the elephant in the command center. The problem lies in the National Incident Management System.

“The application of NIMS guidelines and social media for emergency public information is currently counterproductive,” said Adam Crowe, of the Johnson County (Kan.) Office of Emergency Management.

Yes, NIMS guidelines (our federal emergency response guidelines, to put it simply) weren’t built for social media. But, it’s more than just social media. The whole NIMS PIO system needs an update. Why? Mobile devices are the elephant in the EOC, not social media.

NIMS calls for all information released to the public during an emergency to be reviewed and approved by incident commanders. But Crowe told Homeland1 that this structured review-and-approval process greatly reduces the effectiveness of social media.

“This is contradictory to the speed, pace and expectations of the social media community,” Crowe said. A paper he wrote recently appeared in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, exposing the flaw and calling for a NIMS review to see how social media use during a response can fit into that framework.

The NIMS guidelines are contradictory to more than just the “social media community”. What about the 24-hour news cycle? Are those stations and the viewers okay with the NIMS review process? No way. It’s about speed. We all expect info fast.

A NIMS update needs to focus on how to get unfiltered information out immediately, primarily to mobile devices such as smart phones (Blackberry, Android, iPhone). Social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are one tool to get info to the mobile device user. Other mobile tools may include a press release formatted for easy mobile devices viewing, offering subscriptions to an e-mail listserv, a mobile app or a small screen website.

Let’s start this conversation using the correct terms. We can do it right. But if we focus on just social media and not all the ways to deliver information to mobile devices, we will miss an opportunity to make a real improvement to NIMS and public information delivery.

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