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Posts Tagged ‘disaster preparation’

BE SAFE: How Social Media Saves Lives

Monday, February 14th, 2011
Globe Cloaked in Social Media Protective Banner

Social Media is not just for social interaction anymore.

While some might think that websites like Twitter are only good for tracking celebrity exploits, they are proving incredibly useful for disaster preparation and emergency management.
For example, FEMA is adopting social media websites to share information about disasters and coordination efforts. Created in response to the successful use social media following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the FEMA initiatives aim to harness the power of social media to spread life-saving, instantaneous information.

Social Media in Action

During the recent floods in Australia, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook were instrumental for organizing-efforts. The emergency services in Queensland relied on social media sites for real-time updates on conditions in different areas. This data was used to allocate limited resources and aided in overall disaster planning.

The Australia floods highlighted the particular strengths of Facebook and Twitter, the two most popular social sites. Twitter proved most valuable as a way to spread information very rapidly and widely. During the floods, there were an estimated 1,200 flood-related status updates to Twitter “Tweets” per hour. The short (140) character lengths and ability to quickly “follow” those who were posting pertinent information allowed many residents to stay safe.

Facebook was utilized for providing more detail and acting as a way to manage relief activities. One of example of this occurred when an area animal shelter was at risk of flooding. Facebook was used to find homes for all of the displaced animals.

In all instances of the use of social media in disasters, the public becomes a valuable resource for helping the efforts of emergency management professionals. Acting as “first responders,” the general public can provide immediate information which can be used to affect the routing of emergency supplies and other emergency management efforts.

For emergency management officials, it’s important to keep an eye on the information flowing from the social media universe. Any grossly erroneous information should be quickly rebutted from official sources since one downside to the speed of social media is that misinformation can proliferate. So it’s important to monitor the social conversation. According to a Red Cross survey, 69 percent of respondents fully expect emergency management agencies to actively monitor and respond to emergency requests via social media sites.

Another recent use of social media was during the January blizzard that affected the Midwest. In Chicago, road clearing management personnel posted real-time progress of plowing efforts using phones or tablet devices. The National Weather service was also involved, through its efforts in spreading alerts through Twitter and Facebook.

Social media use during the floods and other disasters also act as aggregators of public sentiment and concern. Officials can use social media data to prepare official videos or flyers that address particular needs.

Usage of social media is a great medium for members of the general public and official emergency agencies to work together for the common good. By responsibly using the platform, the public can quickly learn what is happening and where they can go to help, while emergency officials can discover where to send rescue teams and allocate resources.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Rebuilding Haiti’s Emergency Management Systems

Monday, February 1st, 2010
Important lessons can be learned from the disaster in Haiti

Important lessons can be learned from the disaster in Haiti

The recent earthquake disaster in Haiti will require extensive rebuilding of the country’s emergency response systems and infrastructure. Unfortunately, as a poor nation, many Haitians did not have the proper resources to ensure emergency preparedness. The only positive result of the disaster is that it will give the country the opportunity to focus on ways to ensure quicker, more comprehensive response time for future disasters.

But the application doesn’t stop in Haiti. Some of the hard-learned lessons can be applied to emergency planning for your buildings. These include the importance of following code standards, maintaining the infrastructure of the building, and making sure that communications procedures are established and followed. Disasters can and will happen, and proper preparation can minimize losses and quicken the pace of rebuilding.

Several aspects of emergency management will need to be rebuilt in Haiti:

Earthquake Codes:

  • Focus will be on implementing new building codes
  • Some studies focus on minimizing population densities and overcrowding
  • Authorities and aid organizations will need to provide assistance to lower income families that cannot afford to meet code regulations to prevent the building of unregulated and unsafe structures
  • Scientists say that future earthquakes are likely and Haiti should be prepared
  • New codes are especially important for multi-story buildings such as offices or hotels
  • Many homes in Haiti were built in stages which led to inconsistent foundation standards

Emergency Planning:

  • Seismologists warned of the threat of a potential earthquake, but most warnings went unheeded
  • Proper planning includes distribution of emergency kits to residents, designated relief zones, and equipment for the clearing of debris from roads

Infrastructure Needs:

  • Prior to the disaster, Haiti’s airport, ports and road systems were in need of repair
  • Strengthening infrastructure allows for faster emergency response
  • Bringing water and sanitation up to modern standards will aid the distribution of emergency supplies and information

Communications:

  • Secure communications are a key to coordinating relief in time of a disaster
  • Telephone and Internet systems need to be improved
  • Communication systems allow individuals to quickly get needed information in terms of where food or medical relief can be located, or where to find temporary shelters

We encourage all of our readers to donate for Haiti Relief by visiting the American Red Cross. Visit www.rjwestmore.com for information about our emergency training program. BE SAFE.