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Digital Volunteers and Emergency Management

How digital volunteers and VOSTs can assist official government agencies and emergency management organizations. A brief overview of the experience so far.

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Digital Volunteers and Emergency Management

  1. 1. INTERNATIONAL SAFETY RESEARCH Engineering Risk Management Solutions Digital Volunteers And Emergency Management July 2014
  2. 2. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Overview 2 Digital volunteers and emergency management … an ongoing experiment  Types of missions/deployments  Examples … case studies … a global phenomenon … rise of the VTCs  The Volunteer Operations Support Team concept  Integrating digital volunteers in the emergency operations centre  Challenges and opportunities  Questions  Conclusion
  3. 3. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Types of missions and deployments 3 Take on all forms … organic, spontaneous, organized, sponsored Key characteristics:  Crowdsourced … issues identification … solutions … applications  Most often … distributed task assignments … no hierarchy  Cloud based tools … socially-convergent tools … open source  Incident-specific … core group of coordinators or liaisons with agencies Some issues:  Coordination challenges … duplication of efforts  Information validation … trusted agents  Mistrust from institutions … misunderstanding of SMEM
  4. 4. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Types of missions and deployments 4 Also vary by type of work being conducted  Social media monitoring, analysis and reporting  Monitoring + crisis mapping  Message amplification  Public information supplementation  Response and recovery coordination  Logistics coordination  Missing persons, family reunification  Imagery/GIS analysis  Others
  5. 5. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Examples … a global phenomenon 5 From strategic, large-scale deployments … to tactical implementation  Haiti earthquake: – Open Street Maps – Fletcher School/Tufts + Ushahidi > HUSAR/USAR teams, – crisis mapping, – donations apps  Lybia Crisis Maps: official request/activation … SBTF  Christchurch earthquake: – recovery map, – Student Volunteer Army FB coordination  Joplin tornado: recovery page on FB  Four-mile Canyon Fire in Boulder: tactical implementation mapping + SM monitoring  Typhoon Haiyan  Next ? Drones and more
  6. 6. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) 6 Born in the USA … growing everywhere … different models  VOST origins: Jeff Phillips and others … NEMA barcamp 2011  First activations: Pacific northwest forest fires  Hurricanes Irene and Sandy  International growth: NZVost, CanVOST, VOSTespana, more Coordination: loose, VOST leadership coalition,  Cross-team membership … outside area of ops  Mix of volunteer and professional EM
  7. 7. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) 7 Use of open source tools: Skype, Google Docs, SMS group text, others Roles vary for different VOSTs – Some directly support PIOs and manage SM accounts during crises – Message amplification: retweets of official posts, engage – SM monitoring: • Identify rumours = threats to public health/safety • Calls for help: route through appropriate channels (Sandy, Moore) • Detect reputation threats = jeopardize ability of agency to respond • Validate official messaging • Situational Awareness Geo-fenced and keywords/hashtag searches Best when given specific tasks/requests
  8. 8. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) 8 Common VOST operational requirements:  Leadership and liaison  Recruiting and training members … and keeping them engaged  IT pros and SM enthusiasts, community volunteers, EM/1st responders  Basic IMS, basic SM tools (hootsuite, tweetdeck) + online collaborative tools  What skills are needed? Leadership cadre?  Procedures and references  Need for regular exercises or activation (including support of other teams)  Clear accountability/expectations  When/how to activate … for what types of incidents  Internal work flows and reporting back to agency/EOC Key: maintain balance between volunteer enthusiasm and structure
  9. 9. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Integrating digital volunteers in the EOC 9  First, the need to integrate SMEM into EM … from the incident command post to the EOC at all levels  Looking at the IMS structure … some examples:  Command: up-to-date situational awareness … digi vols can support in real-time, coordinated with GIS specialists  PIO: VOST team can supplement SM monitoring and message distribution  Planning: Sit Unit can be augmented by digi vols doing analysis (imagery, GIS requirements, etc)  Logistics: SM monitoring by volunteers to help match offers of assistance/supplies with needs in the field
  10. 10. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Challenges … and opportunities 10  Obstacles: not technology but policy/mindset … growing need for acceptance  Common issues:  Digital volunteers: trusted agents? Or wannabees?  SM intel validation? Why should I believe Twitter?  Where to put SM (and liaison with digital vols/VOSTs) in the EOC  Lack of understanding of the benefits of SMEM and digital volunteers
  11. 11. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Challenges … and opportunities 11  Benefits: not agency-based but community-based situational awareness  What can work for agencies:  Used of enthusiastic, trained, tech-savvy volunteers in tight fiscal environment ( Angus drone video)  Integrated real-time social intelligence to support effective decision- making and engagement with audiences  Use resources that are available through different time zones and outside the area of operations …  Build community resilience and speed up recovery
  12. 12. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Questions 12
  13. 13. Engineering Risk Management Solutions Conclusion 13  EM agencies trail the public they serve in the adoption of new technology  Move at the speed of your audiences (speed of social networks) or be irrelevant … Use the tools they use (mobile tech) or don't get heard …  Use the power of the crowd and the cloud  Fantastic pool of volunteers available … eager, dedicated, serious  It's cost efficient !