Outside Looking In.
G1159BW’s perspective on SMEM
It was another rousing discussion on the #SMEMchat today. As is usually the case on Friday mornings I was watching the tag with great interest. I’m an outsider to the EM world. I’m just a concerned citizen that has seen the value in social media participation in disaster and crisis. I have used my social media tools to forward information, validate information and build relationships all in the spirit of helping communities. In most cases it has been an organic, collaborative effort of citizens like me, NGO’s and Federal, State and Local EM’s and first responders. It is readily apparent to an outsider like me that “official” organizations are often the weakest participants, that is if they even show up at all. I do have high confidence that in the future this will change. The demands of the citizens will eventually trump the fears and reluctance of the organizations. The catch is, disaster and crisis waits for no one. The process of SM adoption must be accelerated. The #SMEM participants are on the sharp end of this effort and I hope to offer some support.
One thing I noticed was that there is great interest in what the federal government and Congress can do. Having spent so long around these institutions I have no doubt that they can (and will) embrace the role of SM in crisis response (and hopefully in resiliency and mitigation as well). The problem is federal government agencies and the legislature move at a glacial pace, and are terribly risk adverse. Before they will expend political capital on even the most worthy of endeavors the leadership wants demonstrated political ROI. They will get it, in time, when they use successes in crisis SM to gain political leverage. From experience I say that you can’t rely on federal level leadership trickle down. Adoption of SMEM will be most expedient and efficient if done at the local level first.
So how do you build community involvement and function as an advocate at a local level? Sell the plan. Market the adoption of SM the same way you would a product or service. Like their federal colleagues, administrators and elected officials at city, county and state levels need help to see the benefits. They require good data to make decisions. I see this as an opportunity for the grassroots SMEM advocates to organize under this mission and produce “marketing” materials that can aid in dispelling myths, providing actionable data and developing best practices. The most difficult part of the process will be getting the reluctant parties to the table. Just like “cold calling” a potential customer, making those first steps to opening a line of communication is often an uncomfortable exercise. Promoting SMEM requires making those first steps to eventually close the deal. As an outsider, a common citizen, I have very little leverage in promoting SMEM to these officials. A central organization, not of government origin, will do much to empower like minded EM’s and citizens. An organization like this can offer a form of mentoring to those who “get it” but need a helping hand to move forward. With these tools we can expand awareness and even a concerned citizen, like me, will have something to help validate my point.
In closing I would like to say thank you to the #SMEM participants. I learn so much from these fine folks each week. I welcome any and all comments, critiques and questions.
Have a great weekend,
Chuck Wilson – @g1159bw