This seems to be the hot topic in government social media today. US Navy Command issued their social media handbook. I think the first half of the document is a good social media protocol for government agencies that allows one’s employees to participate in social media, but do it safely and effectively.
The second part of the document, though is really cool. It’s all about using social media for crisis communications. And the recommendations are sound: establish a presence pre-crisis, monitor conversations, post quickly and accurately, engage.
When I pitch social media to government agencies, they worry about doing something wrong or breaking rules or putting people in harm’s way. And I generally point them to the White House and the Department of the Navy. If they can do social media with all of their security needs and concerns, your local Health Department can figure it out, too.