Digital Volunteers and Emergency Management


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

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
  • Looks great Patrice! Thanks for including slides from VOST Basics - I'm glad to see that info being used and amplified :)
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  • The most positive deployments seem to be in crowd soursing missing persons and family unification. Is this in Ontario only or across Canada? How does groups like CanVost compare with crowd sourced situational analysis group contributing to groups like World Vision, Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies?
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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 !