Emergency Management – Getting Ahead of the Social Media Test Curve

Social media is increasingly being looked to as a tool for emergency management. It has a number of attractive characteristics, including cloud-based resiliency and being well-known and understood by a large portion of the public and professionals alike. The problem that many organisations face is in knowing how to prepare their use of social media. Trying to test the social media component of an emergency management plan is a delicate matter. Simply prefacing social media messages with ‘This is a test’ is optimistic at best.

It’s a similar problem to trying to test public address systems. How do you do a full test with a realistic message without causing people to panic? Because the social network vendors had no tools to help organisations manage such tests, different solutions have been produced. The US Army came up with its ‘milBook’, a Facebook lookalike, to test social media communication before the fact. The Nusura Company created its platform SimulationDeck to mimic what would happen online in an emergency. The platform has a number of components corresponding to the major social networks. Thus ‘SimulationBook’, ‘Bleater’ and ‘EweTube’ correspond respectively to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Besides organisations and enterprises, the discussion has also been broadened to international diplomacy. The approach is based on Twitter, which lends itself well to the emergency management communications. The idea proposed by Daryl Morini, deputy editor of the e-IR (e-International Relations) site, is to use a panel of experts to play through the simulation to see if preventive diplomacy will allow escalation to be avoided.  The approach doesn’t handle the multiple media interactions in the way that the Nusura platform does. However as a first step, an enterprise could plan a similar Twitter-based panel exercise with participants to see if how effectively it communicated via Twitter in a situation where no other channels were open to it.