A new Twitter friend popped up yesterday, and boy did he
jump into the deep end. Mr. Poirier goes over the why (and more
importantly, how) social media should be integrated into the
day-to-day of your friendly neighborhood
He boils it down to four points: 1) Be the official source, 2) Open
the two-way street, 3) Be honest, and 4) Recruit, standardize and
innovate. I have no quibble with any of them. In fact, I don’t know
any governmental PIO who would argue with numbers one and three.
Number two is a sea change that many will come around to eventually
and number four? This is the area that, while not wrong, could use the
most fleshing out and is something I’m actively investigating and hope
to update you all on shortly.
Mr. Poirier uses the Red Cross quoted term, “digital first responder,”
as a possible way to surge our public information staff. I’ve been
working with some emergency managers on the idea of a “virtual
operations support team,” or VOST to do just that. It’s a really neat
idea that ends up being a trust exercise done on a high wire. Scary,
but once it works, man do you have a powerful tool.
The thing I wanted to comment on specifically here was Mr. Poirier’s
term, “digital first responder,” though. While I’ve heard the term
many times before, it never jogged a specific memory before today, and
what a powerful image it presents.
Thanks to the amazing public safety sector here in Philadelphia, I’ve
had the opportunity to hear from folks in Magen David Adom, the
Israeli EMS organization. They cover the entire country and, as you
can imagine, are stretched to the breaking point with such an amazing
charge. They have developed a volunteer corps that is actively
integrated into day-to-day activities of the MDA, the first
responders. Regular, everyday citizens with specialized training and
24/7 notification ability. When something happens, MDA dispatch
contacts the first responders closest to the scene and, if they’re
available, they respond. And start sizing up the situation, and start
administering aid if necessary. They are in contact with central
dispatch the whole time.
This digital first responder could very much be the same. A deployable
volunteer with special training that is actively integrated into our
responses. They’re most likely to spot the initial problem, be closest
to the scene and available to help. By working closely with your PIO
(central dispatch), they could start assessing the situation,
collecting and correcting rumors, and issuing official, approved
messages HOURS before the JIC is set up.
What an amazing parallel! Thanks so much, and well met, Chris!
Definitely check out his blog at
Update from Nedra Weinreich for those of your interested in the work that MDA does. Apparently, there is a similar volunteer EMS service that is run by chapters around the world called Hatzalah. Just goes to show that with volunteers and a need, anything can happen.