As the extent of the damage from the earthquake in Nepal became clear, technology companies started devising ways to help users in affected areas connect with friends and loved ones around the world, and vice versa.
Google’s Person Finder was tracking about 6,100 records as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, Eastern time. Here is how it works: Anyone can enter a person’s name, biographical information and photograph into Google’s database. You can specify whether you are that person, are seeking information about that person or have reason to believe that person is either alive or missing. Google does not review or verify any of the data.
Two significant new reports on the topic of social media and EM came to my attention this week. See:
New FEMA document (48 pp) : Using Social Media for Enhanced Situation Awareness and Decision Support.
New Canadian document (62 pp): Social Media in Emergency Management, Capability Assessment. Saved here as Canadian-Project
Update: For more details on the FEMA report, see this article in Emergency Management magazine.
From the Homeland Security Digital Library, where they have the luxury of full-time staff!, see the abstract and source info for this new report from the Wilson Center: Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management
The full report is 139 pages, and the executive summary is on pages 4-5. Looks like a lot of good material in there.
DHS has issued a new document (22 pp.) that provides guidance on the use of social media for community engagement; Sept. 2012. Basic information provided in a document with a dull title and a less-than-exciting format.
NOTE: the URL is rather peculiar and is giving some readers trouble. To be helpful, I have loaded a text file to this site, so you can Virtual Social Media Working Group Community Engagement
If anyone from DHS reads this, please take note of the problems identified.
With all the fire and flooding disasters going on presently, I thought I would pull up some practical resources for people to use. See this handbook created by residents of Joplin, MO with help from their state university: The Use of Social Media for Disaster Recovery. Note that the same two ladies who were the creative force in Joplin have created a Facebook page for the Colorado Wildfires.
Additional resources are on Kim Stephen’s blog: idisaster.wordpress.com
Be sure to check out the Resources page.
Great use of Google maps for detailed accounts of the various fires: Use this link.
Another link with info from Crisis Commons. If you work with these maps you will see situation reports, shelter locations, and other useful facts connected by URL to the images.
From the Denver Post, resources and assistance available to evacuees.
Website for the CO Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters.
From USA Today, some interesting facts about why the risk is so high in Colorado and other western states:
Throughout the West, firefighters have toiled for days in searing, record-setting heat against fires fueled by prolonged drought. Most, if not all, of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana were under red flag warnings, meaning extreme fire danger.
The nation is experiencing “a super-heated spike on top of a decades-long warming trend,” said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center.
I keep wondering how you shelter 32,000 people who have evacuated rapidly from an unexpected disaster event. If anyone has details, please let me know.
While watching Public TV last night, there was a feature about a program called Safecast. According to the Safecast blog site, the effort is “a global sensor network for collecting and sharing radiation measurements to empower people with data about their environments.”
While we have seen other examples of crowdsourcing to gather information, this is the first example of gathering and applying scientific information. I hope people create some other examples. See comments from readers who have supplied some examples.
Related to this article is another one re a new capability for smart phones. From Government Security News, Nov.11: Disaster Preparedness 2011: smart phones enhanced with nanotube hazmat detectors bring a new dimension to preparedness:
What if your cell phone could detect toxic airborne substances like carbon monoxide, chlorine or even chemical warfare agents?
The public would have a new level of personal protection against a range of fairly common airborne chemical-based toxins, as well as against terrorist attacks involving WMDs. And when sensor data is harnessed in an environmental sensing network for first responders and other organizations, it will be the dawn of a new era for disaster preparedness.
this article is another one that I just read:
Update on March 31: MSNBC evening TV news indicates that the national government in Japan has taken over the TEPCO utility; it is expected that the co. will be nationalized in the near future.
March 30: According to CNN news, the “The president of the embattled utility that owns the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been hospitalized due to “fatigue and stress,” the company said Wednesday.Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Masataka Shimizu was hospitalized Tuesday. The company has not released further details about his condition.”
In the U.S. we use the term “responsible party” for the private sector entity that owns the facility that causes a hazardous material or technological crisis or disaster. The relationship between that party and the national government is always a conflicted one — think, for example, of the relationship between the BP Oil Co. and the U.S. government over the deepsea drilling accident in 2010. Here is the Japanese version of that relationship, as unfolding since the Sendai earthquake and tsunami: Amid Reactor Crisis, Japanese Utility Executive Vanishes, Wash. Post, March 28
In normal times, Masataka Shimizu lives in The Tower, a luxury high-rise in the same upscale Tokyo district as the U.S. Embassy. But he hasn’t been there for more than two weeks, according to a doorman.
The Japanese public hasn’t seen much of him recently either. Shimizu, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, the company that owns a haywire nuclear power plant 150 miles from the capital, is the most invisible — and most reviled —chief executive in Japan.
Vanishing in times of crisis is something of a tradition among Japan’s industrial and political elite. During Toyota’s recall debacle last year, the carmaker’s chief also went AWOL. “It is very, very sad, but this is normal in Japan,” saidYasushi Hirai, the chief editor of Shyukan Kinyobi, a weekly news magazine.
But the huge scale of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi and mounting anger at Tepco’s obfuscations have put unprecedented strain on the Japanese establishment’s preference for invisible crisis management. And the Internet has helped erode Japan’s deferential norms and given voice to those who want more than a contrite bow.
Shimizu’s vanishing act “is not so much extremely strange as inexcusable,” said Takeo Nishioka, the chairman of the upper house of Japan’s Diet, or parliament.
Presently, the public expects more responsible and transparent actions from corporate executives. And thanks to digital media the drama unfolds publicly, in view of the readers and viewers worldwide.
Apparently, the public in Japan is quite fed up with both the Prime Minister and with the President of TEMCO. Various news services today have accounts of dissatisfaction with the performance of both executives. Now that a few weeks have past, and there has been time to appraise the performance of both leaders, the public finds them wanting.
- The President Of TEPCO Is Being Urged To Stand Down With $26 Billion Now Erased From The Company’s Value (businessinsider.com)
- Tepco’s Future Is Debated (online.wsj.com)
- Tepco Chief Pressured to Quit on Reactor Crisis, Share Slump (businessweek.com)
- Tepco President Admitted To Hospital (online.wsj.com)
- TEPCO stocks are on their way to losing all value (ktwop.wordpress.com)
Are you interested in how social media applications can help with all phases of emergency management? Tune in this Wednesday to the EM Forum and participate.
Note: Kim Stephens the speaker on Wed. is also a diva I blog with.
In the course of recent online research regarding the Canterbury, NZ earthquake, I was given a website produced by GNS Science, which contains a comprehensive list of information about the quake. (GNS is a”research institute operating as a limited liability company owned by the New Zealand government.)
In reviewing it, it became clear to me that the folks in NZ have effectively taken advantage of several forms of new digital technology; namely, Google maps, a recovery blog, data gathering from citizens, GIS, and more. For example, they not only have a link to their twitter feed but also a twitter “how to” so that citizens can understand how to follow the latest information and/or send out their own tweets using hashtags designated for the quake.
In the U.S., most of the discussions regarding the use of digital technology have focused on the response and preparedness phases of emergency management. But the NZ website site demonstrates how many of the new means of gathering data and communicating can be used for the recovery phase as well.
By means of comparison, here are some details about the recent BP Oil Spill disaster in the U.S. The BP Oil Spill Restore the Gulf website provides information in a highly polished format, but the communication only goes one-way. And the seemingly interactive “Ask a Responder” tab is pre-scripted: the questions and answers are already provided and the opportunity to actually ask a question is zero. Furthermore, the site does not include any place for citizens to record their experiences with the disaster, though there is a tab with a list of phone numbers to “report a concern”. In contrast, the NZ GNS site has a “felt it” questionnaire for citizens to fill out their observations of the quake. (It should be noted that the U.S.Geological Survey does have a stand alone Did you Feel it website for earthquakes).
In short, while many public agencies in the U.S. use social media, this NZ one-stop shop model, produced by a credible, semi-autonomous national agency, should be useful to U.S. communities and organizations responsible for managing the recovery process. After a disaster, providing information to citizens as well as providing an opportunity for them to record their experiences, probably will be something the public comes to expect, if not demand.
[Thanks to Mr. Ian McLean and Ms Kim Stephens for their assistance.]
On August 25, follow blogger Mark Chubb commented on the article noted below and gives it some some additional dimensions. See posting today in Homeland Security Watch.
This NY Times article provides a useful primer on crisis communications. See In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do. A few excerpts follow:
Whoever suggested that all publicity is good publicity clearly never envisioned the wave of catastrophe engulfing high-profile corporations over the last year, laying waste to some of the most meticulously tailored reputations on earth.
The calamities have served up a lifetime supply of case studies to be mined for lessons on best practices, as well as pitfalls to avoid when disaster arrives.
As conventional wisdom has it, the three companies at the center of these fiascos worsened their problems by failing to heed established protocol: When the story is bad, disclose it immediately — awful parts included — lest you be forced to backtrack and slide into the death spiral of lost credibility.