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Apr 23 2014

Online Collaboration Helpful for First Responders with Constrained Resources

By Sara Estes Cohen

Topics: EarthquakesInformation SharingPreparednessSocial Media

First responders today face myriad demands on time, budgets, training, part of a fragmented community spread across thousands of agencies at all levels of government. Struggling with increasing resource constraints, disparate technology platforms and tools, first responders today looking to creative solutions to traditional activities, like training, education, conferences and meetings, and networking. First responders are increasingly looking to online tools and other resources for information, training and education, networking, and more.

DHS Science and Technology’s First Responders Group offers two such resources: www.FirstResponder.gov, and First Responder Communities of Practice (FRCOP). FirstResponder.gov offers information on technology, resources, products, programs, standards, testing and evaluation, and best practices.  FRCOP is an online collaboration platform for first responders to collaborate, share and build resources and best practices, and to network with others in their field within a safe and secure environment. The site, with nearly 7,000 members, is approved for the sharing of Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) and For Official Use Only (FOUO) information. Members include first responders, government employees, government-sponsored contractors, academia, and volunteers (members must provide a sponsor for vetting purposes). Some of the groups who have or are currently using FRCOP include:

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: This community served as a platform for Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) stakeholders to receive information about the second QHSR, to interact with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other stakeholders, and to provide their thoughts and comments on the QHSR study topics.

The Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG): The VSMWG is a DHS S&T working group that focuses on the development of best practices and guidance for the use of social media in public safety. Since its inception of December of 2010, the group has leveraged FRCOP as a platform for sharing materials like the monthly meeting notes and documents, discussion, and for the development of the group’s many reports.

The Federal Virtual Communities of Practice Working Group: This group focuses on developing and building upon the knowledge and skills of federal government employees and contractors who are involved in the day-to-day management of virtual communities. The group leverages the site to share information and for ongoing discussion on best practices relating to community building, management, outreach, and engagement.

The National Information Sharing Consortium (NISC): The NISC brings together data owners, custodians, and users involved in the fields of emergency preparedness, management, and response, to drive an ongoing dialogue on how to best leverage efforts related to the development, sharing, and governance of technology, data, and best practices.

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