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Virtual Social Media Working Group

Categories: National InitiativesSocial Media

The use of social media presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the first responder community. The widespread use of social media by the public makes more information available than ever before to the first responder community, yet there can be so much information that it can be overwhelming and confusing, in addition to concerns about reliability of the data provided. While social media can also provide a quick and effective means for communications with the public that interaction can create unrealistic expectations as to how quickly a query or call for help can be addressed. As a result the first responder community use of social media, presents real challenges that have to be addressed in order to use it effectively.

To address this challenge G&H working in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security First Responders Group established the Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG). Today, the group’s membership includes 23 practitioners representing various disciplines from non-profit, academia, state, local, county, and federal agencies and organizations. Meeting monthly, G&H facilitates the group in discussion and development of recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe and sustainable use of social media technologies before, during, and after emergencies. In the last three years, the group has presented at several conferences and meetings and published four guidance documents in collaboration with federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia. The four reports are:

  • Social Media Strategy – provides high-level introduction to social media, its benefits for public safety, and best practices from agencies already using social media tools;
  • Next Steps Strategy – serves as a follow-up to the Social Media Strategy document, presenting challenges and providing next steps and best practices for public safety agencies developing and implementing social media;
  • Community Engagement Guidance and Best Practices – shares best practices for public safety agencies and partner organizations on how to use social media to successfully engage community members and stakeholders; and
  • Lessons Learned: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy – provides an overview on how social media was used in preparation for, in response to, and in recover from Hurricane Sandy, discusses processes identified by the first responder community as best practices and lessons learned, and identifies gaps in technology, process and/or policy, and offers points requiring further discussion.
Social media in action to support first responders
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