Vost white paper 2013

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This paper identifies the history and best practice uses of VOST and lays out a plan for developing and incorporating VOST teams into the Orange County, California disaster communications structure. It proposes use of specially trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers who are already members of the CERT Mutual Aid Program in Orange County.

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Vost white paper 2013

  1. 1. Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) Orange County, California Prepared By: Mary Jo Flynn, MS, CEM Whitepaper October 1, 2013 Justin Mammen, MSW Jordan Villwock, MS Executive Summary In recent years the utilization of social media during disasters has been increasing exponentially with a focused public expectation of communication via social media for real-time information. Recent examples including the Boulder, CO floods, Hurricanes Sandy and Irene have shown the growth of the publics’ use and expectation of these mediums. FEMA has recognized this need and Administrator Craig Fugate has (http://youtu.be/RqkRx0vpDeI) adopted social media and utilized it within the agency. FEMA has recently updated an Application (APP) 1 that asks the public to submit disaster photos (disaster reporter feature) to capture the full scale of a disaster. 2 As this use of social media has increased, so has the burden on Public Information Officers (PIO). Identifying trends, rumors and situational status is challenging while at the same time trying to provide accurate information to the public. A volunteer workforce is needed to supplement tasks within a PIO office, or a Joint Information Center (JIC). A proven solution to this challenge is the development of a Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST). Vision of a successful strategy A successful social media strategy will gather followers who seek information, but who may also amplify information. Amplification on social media is the concentrated re-tweeting or sharing of a message so that more followers are exposed to the message than from the original source. The strategy during times of crisis or emergency are twofold, (1) it may be used to support intelligence gathering for Planning and Intelligence Section and (2) it may be used as an operational tool for broadcasting messages from the PIO. Post crisis, it may work with the PIO and Recovery groups to coordinate information, community needs, spontaneous volunteers and donations, and intelligence. Most recently use of social media in recovery operations has been prized for its effect on community healing and allowing the community to grieve. Figure 1 Message Amplification Through Networks 1 Mashable. FEMA App Adds Crowdsourcing for Disaster Relief. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2013/07/29/fema-app-disaster-relief/ 2 FEMA Smartphone App http://www.fema.gov/smartphone-app Page 1
  2. 2. Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) Orange County, California Prepared By: Mary Jo Flynn, MS, CEM Justin Mammen, MSW Whitepaper October 1, 2013 Jordan Villwock, MS VOST Background The idea behind VOST (Virtual Operations Support Team) was developed in 2011 by Jeff Phillips, Emergency Management Coordinator in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Scott Reuter for Oregon VOAD and Caz Milligan from New Zealand VOST created the original training guidance for VOST Teams. 3 VOST is an effort to make use of new communication technologies and social media tools so that a team of trusted agents can lend support to emergency management officials who may be overwhelmed by the volume of data generated during a disaster 4. VOSTs activate to perform specific functions in support of affected organizations and jurisdictions. A VOST monitors and maintains social media awareness, collecting and analyzing online information to inform emergency management officials and the online public. Each VOST has a Team Leader who reports directly to a liaison within the affected organization/jurisdiction. Since 2011, VOSTs have sprung up all over the United States and in the international community. In addition to New Mexico, VOSTs have been established in New York (Suffolk County), Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), Oregon (Portland), Washington (Clark County), Canada, and New Zealand. In addition to numerous exercises, VOSTs have activated for actual incidents including, but not limited to, Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 Oklahoma Tornadoes, and the 2012 Oregon Table Mountain Fire. In February 2012 the University of Colorado, Boulder released a research paper 5 on a VOST activation in support of the 2011 Oregon Shadow Lake Fire. The research supported the benefits of using a team of trusted agents to sift through social media and support emergency managers during a disaster. Emergency managers see the critical need for a VOST and, as a result, there are currently 14 VOSTs 6 in development across the country. Paralleling the creation and research of VOST teams the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate created the Virtual Social Media Working Group, a body of advisors to the department who evaluate and develop best practices documents regarding new technologies including social media. 7 Their website hosts several best practice reports to aid the first responder and emergency management communities in adopting and utilizing social media to meet public expectation and to provide rapid and efficient information flow during disasters. 3 4 5 6 7 VOST Basics Slideshare guide http://www.slideshare.net/CMilliganNZVOST/vost-presentation-basics http://vosg.us/ https://www.cs.colorado.edu/~palen/Home/Articles_by_Year_files/TrustedDigitalVolunteersStDenisHughesPalen.pdf http://vosg.us/active-vosts/ Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) reports http://www.firstresponder.gov/frblog/Post.aspx?ID=187 Page 2
  3. 3. Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) Orange County, California Prepared By: Mary Jo Flynn, MS, CEM Justin Mammen, MSW Whitepaper October 1, 2013 Jordan Villwock, MS Concept of Operations Trusted Agent Training and Mobilization Trusted Agents are defined as staff or volunteers who are trained in a variety of platforms in order to research information on Social Media and/or to re-broadcast information via social media from official sources like the agency PIO. Trusted Agents may be mobilized to assemble at the Joint Information Center (JIC) or may have their own location in communications and report to Planning/Intel. These individuals will be pre-screened for the following: • • • • Trusted agents must have their own social media account on one of three primary account types: Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus It is recommended that Trusted Agents also follow other social media sites, considered secondary accounts like YouTube, Slide Share, Klout, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. Trusted Agents must be active on at least one of the primary accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus) at least once per week. Trusted Agents are not required to friend, like or follow the organization, but are required to know how to access information the organization is publishing and how to disseminate it amongst their networks. Cheryl Bledsoe, Emergency Manager from the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) developed the VOST Field Operations Guide which contains basic standing orders, volunteer expectations and position checklists.8 It is important that both volunteers and staff members leading those volunteers are aware of the opportunities and constraints when using volunteers for assistance with social media monitoring. Working group: A working group will be established for policy direction. Those included in the working group will include City/County PIO’s, City Emergency Managers/CMAP, and a County Emergency Management representative. The working group should determine the requirements and training for including volunteers, the training for both volunteers and staff, and changes or additions to existing planning documents that may be needed in order to incorporate the VOST activities into the local and county response to emergencies and disasters. The recommendation is to start with the existing CERT Mutual Aid Program (CMAP) volunteers who have already been through a vetting process with their agency and who meet minimum requirements for mutual aid within the county. With the addition of a technical specialist training certification, these 8 VOST Field Operations Guide https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8zeaBf_qQSaYmJlMFFUaXhHa28/edit?usp=sharing Page 3
  4. 4. Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) Orange County, California Prepared By: Mary Jo Flynn, MS, CEM Justin Mammen, MSW Whitepaper October 1, 2013 Jordan Villwock, MS volunteers would eventually be allowed to assist in a JIC or be called out by an agency for mutual aid to support social media monitoring, amplification or inquiry/archiving. Training components: CMAP Volunteers who wish to become part of the VOST team, a specialized team among CMAP volunteers, must complete IS-42 (Social Media in Emergency Management) training at minimum. As the class becomes more available within the county, volunteers are recommended to take PER-304 Social Media for Natural Disaster Response and Recovery offered by the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC). Only CMAP volunteers that are savvy with social media and meet the above mentioned criteria shall be allowed to join this team. Team members may be dismissed without cause and would be considered at-will volunteers. Activation: CMAP SOP will be utilized to activate this team through the Operational Area. A team of VOST includes five (5) virtual or in-person volunteers and one (1) CMAP Coordinator or PIO (Paid City Representative). A liaison from the requesting agency must be identified who will provide the VOST team leader with the mission assignments and objectives. The liaison will also be responsible for informing the VOST team on the procedures for escalating messages through the ICS structure and what positions will review and respond to escalated messages. Sample VOST Missions Through a number of activations for actual events: tornadoes, storms, fires, and others, VOST teams have established some common missions. Specific missions will be identified by Incident Command and delivered through the VOST liaison. Missions are entirely dependent upon the situation at hand, however, below are some sample missions volunteers have completed on other incidents. 1. Amplify messages from the lead or assigned PIO. Using their own personal accounts or VOST accounts used to represent a jurisdiction, utilize that account to help spread the official message. 2. Monitor for rumors. Identifying false or misleading information and escalating to the PIO. If the information has already been addressed, the VOST volunteer may be given authorization to connect the person with the accurate information. If it appears to be a new rumor or one that needs to be addressed, the PIO should take over the message handling and respond directly, or modify their outgoing messages and broadcasts to correct. Volunteers may also staff a rumor control website where these false or misleading messages are posted, and the PIO may provide a response to the rumor. 3. Identify questions or requests for assistance. While social media should never be considered 91-1, there are times where people feel they have no other method of communicating their need. VOST volunteers may be given authorization to re-direct the individual to the specific resources they are seeking, e.g. shelter, food, assistance, etc. or they may escalate the message. 4. Provide damage assessment assistance. Using Geolocation, pictures and GIS mapping techniques, VOST volunteers can assist with mapping and visualizing damage assessment. Page 4

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