An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene: an analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping.

An open document prepared on of the Social Media in Emergency Management Community

behalf

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Table of contents 1. Executive Summary: Event overview and general observations 2. Objectives 3. How social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping were used 3.1 by local/municipal agencies/entities 3.2 at the state level 3.3 by the federal family 3.4 by NGOs and service agencies 3.5 by digital volunteer communities and citizens 3.6 by legacy media and the private sector 4. How official agencies integrated social media based, crisis mapping and

crowdsourcing initiatives in their efforts
5. Suggestions on how to better coordinate related activities at all levels 6. Open comment section 7. Conclusion

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

1. Overview:
Hurricane Irene was a huge storm in terms of both the amount of land and number people she impacted. Although the storm did not cause the catastrophic damage that was predicted, due in large part to being downgraded to a tropical storm when it made landfall in New York, it still proved to be both deadly and costly. See this Wikipedia post for an overview of the path of the storm and its consequences: ...Irene caused widespread destruction and at least 55 deaths; monetary losses in the Caribbean could be as high as US$3.1 billion according to preliminary estimates. Early damage estimates in the U.S. are about $10–15 billion. The storm affected people from Puerto Rico to Vermont, and all along the way people tweeted, blogged, posted to facebook, upload media via YouTube, pictures via Flickr, and comments via Tumblr (along with many other social networking sites). This report will examine what role social media (SM), crowdsourcing (CS) and crisis mapping (CM) played for official agencies, the media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), digital volunteers and citizens, before, during and after the storm. Our efforts, however, will be driven by these key questions below, although the answers to some still remain elusive. ● Did municipal, state or federal agencies, either use or promote digital volunteer efforts designed to collect citizen-generated data via social networks and process that unformed data into usable information? ○ In other words, how valid were these efforts and what of their usefulness? More on this topic in this blog post. ○ Did the emergency management community use online social networks to gather vital information to assess the situation and allocate resources? Was there any coordination amongst the many crisis mapping initiatives? ○ Who were the target audiences of these efforts (citizens, decision makers, other volunteer organizations)? Were those populations successfully engaged? ○ Was the collective behaviour and/or interaction of these audiences impacted by SM, CS and CM efforts, wherever they might have originated from? Was there interaction between official agencies and volunteer/citizen-driven SM, CS and CM projects? Were there opportunities offered by official agencies for feedback? Did SM, CS and CM efforts enhance preparedness and collective resiliency? What was the actual efficacy of the use of social media, CS and CM, mostly how they manage to affect behaviour among the populations impacted by the storm? What was the use of mobile devices in relation to social media and emerging

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

technologies? ● What examples during this event can provide a good representation of crowdsourcing, crisis mapping and social media information-dissimination efforts? ○ While it would be virtually impossible to gather all SM, CS and CM products and initiatives put in place during #Irene (Twitter hashtag), we will try to present as representative a cross-section of these efforts as we can.

Note: This is an open source project and the information gathered to prepare it will come from all interested parties. 1.1 Definitions: ● Social Media (SM): The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." [Wikipedia] Crowdsourcing (CS) is the act of outsourcing tasks to an undefined, large group of people or community (a "crowd"), through an open call. It should be considered a distributed problem-solving and production model. In the classic use of the term, problems are broadcast to an unknown group of potential solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. [Wikipedia] Crisis Mapping (CM) is live-mapping-focused which combines three main components: information collection, visualization and analysis. Of course, all these elements are within the context of a dynamic, interactive map. The following taxonomy is normally used: 1. Crisis Map Sourcing 2. Crisis Map Visualization 3. Crisis Map Analysis There are multiple methodologies and technologies that one can use for information collection (map sourcing). These range from the traditional paper-based survey approaches to crowdsourcing reports via SMS and automatically parsing social media data on the web. Visualization is about rendering the information collected on a dynamic, interactive map in such a way that the rendering provides maximum insight on the data collected and any potential visual patterns. Crisis Map Analysis entails the application of statistical techniques to spatial data for pattern or “signature” detection, often in realtime.

NOTE: for more information on crowdsourcing and crisis mapping see here.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

1.2 Major Findings and Observations: ● Hurricane Irene seemed to mark a turning point for the acceptance of social media by emergency management officials, certainly as an information tool. ○ The American Red Cross, a pioneer in this field, states this point. ○ The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars sums up why taking stock of the changes brought by participatory technology is so important: ■ “The worldwide response to the Haitian earthquake and Japanese Tsunami
provided vivid proof that these technologies, and the citizens who use them, are playing an increasingly important role in emergency response and recovery. It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the sea change we’re witnessing.” Communia, WWICS, Sept. 1, 2011

Social Media Platforms proved resilient even with massive power outages, particularly when accessed from mobile devices. “Unlike cell phone networks, which can become clogged with callers and fail to function during emergencies, social media outlets continue to provide a means for communication even when thousands upon thousands of users are posting comments. At the height of Hurricane Irene’s escapade along the East Coast, Twitter hosted 3,000 Irene-related Tweets per minute.” -- Erik Devaney, a blog post on New England Post, August 30, 2011 All levels of government (but not every government entity) used social networking for crisis communications. Many government agencies heavily promoted their use of geospecific hashtags (on Twitter) through social and traditional media: ○ Federal : “The Department of Homeland Security and White House now urge citizens to use social media, e-mail and text messaging to contact one another during disasters, given how cell networks can become overloaded.” Deane, Smith & Partners, August 40, 2011 ○ State: ○ Local: The use of key social networks was widespread by all segments of society impacted by the event: citizens, government agencies, volunteers, and businesses. According to Nextgov.com, emergency information and preparedness messaging blanketed the affected populations via alerts and notifications across legacy media as well as social networks. Cities, including New York City experimented with CS damage assessments. See this Mashable.com article. There were many CS and CM efforts undertaken by virtual volunteers, both individuals and by volunteer organizations.

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2. Objectives

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Our overarching objective is to analyze the results of the use of these technologies, identify strengths to be maintained and built upon, and identify potential ares for improvement. In terms of outcome, we hope that this report provides a solid argument(s) for the continuing integration of emerging participatory technology into emergency management programs. Objective 1: Verify and quantify the contributions of various types of agencies and organizations, volunteer groups and individual citizens. ● This objective will be accomplished by reviewing examples of the success and challenges that occurred during the storm. ● Our report will look at how SM, CS and CM were not only used as information tools, but also as sources of data and means of improving the situational awareness (SitA)/ Operational Picture (OP) by official agencies. Objective 2: Provide an opportunity to share these lessons learned with the Emergency Management community. Many emergency management agencies have integrated SM into their standard operating procedures. This report is being produced in the hopes that it will help with the creation of better tools and the necessary understanding to coordinate initiatives in the future. ● ● We will provide a short series of suggestions to the SMEM community and the emergency management world at large. Our philosophy is to gather as much information as possible from the people who engaged in SM, CS and CM during Hurricane Irene, so that our conclusions are based on what was actually experienced. This site was created to collate this type of information.

Objective 3: Integrate multiple types of documents (including blogs, microblogs, images, etc.) in this report to showcase the breadth of materials produced and initiatives undertaken. Objective 4: Write suggestions oriented around practical implementation and generally accepted emergency management principles and the Incident Management System. NOTE: we don’t use the term COP: common operating picture as emerging technology (social media and mobile devices) have brought many simultaneous operating picture into the emergency management environment.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

3. How Social Media, Crowdsourcing and Crisis Mapping were used during Hurricane Irene
Hurricane Irene saw widespread use of social networks by the people impacted and the different levels of government involved in the response. Many volunteer groups also used emerging technologies to contribute to the well-being and preparedness of their fellow citizens. Many observers noted the complementary nature of social media when compared to legacy media. Here’s an excerpt from a Forbes magazine article:
Social media has augmented the traditional outlet of news media to answer the “what” question. “Why” will always be covered by credible, well-thought-out news analysis and commentary. However, with social media, we all seem to be empowered as an author, photographer or reporter. While businesses debate the utility and relevance of social media, it has become clearer to me based on my experience last week that this vehicle offers a super-condensed “occurrence” to reporting time frame of humanly relevant information that I need. It’s fast, scalable, searchable and originates at the source. For this reason, I will always have a Twitter handle.

-- Don Ball, Forbes Magazine, Aug. 31, 2011

3.1 At the municipal level (includes first responders)
Summary: Municipal governments and agencies (including first responders) are usually on the frontlines of emergency management and response activities. This was the case during Hurricane Irene. While there was a varying degree of social media involvement and use, a great number of municipal entities used social networks to communicate with their residents and a few even used CM and CS to great success. Some were victims of their success when their websites became flooded with requests for information. Observation 1: Social Media is being used by politicians to communicate crisis information, to receive request for assistance from their citizens, and to manage and control rumors. Example 1: The Mayor of Newark (New Jersey), Corey Booker was very adept at using technology and social networks to reach his constituents and carry on constant dialogues with them. This allowed him to build a very thorough situational awareness of how the storm was impacting his city. This blog post by Monica (AKA @CyberlandGal on Twitter) highlights what went well and includes a TV interview with Mayor Booker. Example 2: In Washington (DC), Mayor Vince Gray used social networks to keep his community informed and help dispel rumours, in some cases, misinformation originating

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

from members of his own city council. “In Washington, for instance, Mayor Vince Gray (@MayorVinceGray) refuted
a tweet by a D.C. councilwoman half an hour after she incorrectly told her followers that the District would be under curfew. Mayor Gray’s office, while a relative latecomer to social media, appears to be convinced of its use after the past weekend: “clearly Twitter is becoming a key vehicle for emergency communications,” he tweeted last night.” -- Blog post, Deane, Smith & Partners, August 30, 2011 Example 3: In Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Mayor Michael Nutter (@Michael_Nutter)

directed his entire communications staff and the City’s 311 Center to utilize SM to push out and amplify messages about the storm and how to stay safe. Analysis: While it is great that city leaders use social networks to connect with their constituents, a problem could occur where resources are diverted from the priorities identified via traditional assessments to those identified via the social media connections of the Mayor. Are people given priority simply because they have come to the attention of a politician? What about people that are not capable of participating in social networks? Some have argued, however, that diverting resources at the behest of elected officials is nothing new. Observation 2: Some emergency management organizations incorporated social media as a major component of their comprehensive community outreach/communication strategy, some with experience and some using the technology for the first time. Example 1. Fairfax County (Virginia): county public information officials put in place a comprehensive web and social network strategy to keep residents informed. From YouTube to Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, its social media accounts were all successful at conveying key information and contributed to drive a lot of users to their website which experienced a 3,000 per cent increase in the number of views to emergency management pages. Not forgetting the importance of reaching mobile users, the county even offers apps to download to IPhone and Android devices. Detailed statistics are available here. Analysis: Example 2: Southington (CT)’s police department uses social networks effectively. The small New England town’s EOC used Facebook and Twitter during Irene to communicate promptly with residents, bypassing legacy media:
“It’s very unique and extremely helpful because the use of social media helps reduce any delay that could come with sending press releases to media outlets,” DePalma said. “When you send the information to a newspaper, it takes time for them to receive it and won’t be printed until the next day. Using this, the release of information is almost instant.”

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 3: Onslow County (NC): county officials acted quickly to meet the growing expectations of their residents. A new Facebook page was set up to keep the local population updated. The Facebook page allowed officials and residents alike to upload pictures and information and keep track of the impact of the storm. Example 4: Camp Lejeune: the public affairs officers of the military installation also made use of social media to keep military personnel, families and base workers informed. A key statistic is that 95 per cent of visitors to their Facebook page access it via mobile devices. Analysis: Those communities that had been using social networks before the crisis found it easier to utilize these platforms for information dissemination because they had processes in place. Trying to set up a presence on a social network during an event is not the best case scenario. Even so, those that did use the tools for the first time, including first responders across the many states impacted by Hurricane Irene, found working with these new information channels to be a positive experience. Some also noted the community-building aspect of Facebook. Observation 3: Citizens will flock to authoritative sources of information on social media platforms (and express gratitude for the presence of those sources). The first responder community can leverage citizen interest to ask for situational awareness information. Example 1: Cherry Hill (NJ): a PIO from the local fire department indicates how they worked with police and city officials to maximize their use of social media for Hurricane Irene. Jim Aleski, the PIO, notes: By about 6 hours into the storm, we had 200 more followers on Facebook than we did when we started. We also had all of our personnel working in the field (Police/Fire/EMS/Public Works) subscribe to our Twitter posts via Text Message so that they would have the most updated information right on their phones as it became available. We also monitored various Twitter keywords on Monittor and responded to people who were writing about the storm in the area. We asked people to email us pictures of storm damage as they saw it. Although our reach was small (only a few hundred people out of a city of 75k), I think our endeavors were a major success. We've already received a ton of praise from the public.
■ “I want to commend and applaud Cherry Hill officials for their use of this social media to communicate with the citizens of the our township. This was by far the most effective means in which to do this. Yes we... were without power for quite sometime, but unlike PSE&G, who could not even handle the call volume, our municipal building was able to at least let us know they were listening to us even though they were not responsible for solving the problem (it was PSE&G's

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

problem to resolve). Thank you Cherry Hill officials for being the calm during the storm.” - A Cherry Hill Resident via Township’s Facebook Page

Example 2: New York City was by far the largest agglomeration in the storm’s path and also (as the centre of the media universe ! ). ■ City officials did use crowdsourcing to help them assess damages caused by the storm. ■ Perhaps, guided by the lessons learned from the “Blizzard of 2010”, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the whole city communications machine went into full gear, using both his personal Twitter account and his “official” mayor account::
In New York City, though, residents remained largely unharmed, and that's because of the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas and shutdown of mass transit. These were first-of-their-kind moves boldly initiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, one could very well argue that it is because of social media and citizen journalism that Bloomberg put these restrictions in place. In the last week of 2010, New York suffered a catastrophic blizzard that crippled the city. That blizzard spurred a flurry of viral videos and Twitter comments focusing on incompetent snow plow drivers, union laborers literally sleeping on the job, and thousands of people abandoning stranded buses or broken-down subways.TG Daily, August 26, 2011

Observation 4: It is important that the response community have one source of information on social network sites in line with the concept of operations of a Joint Information Center. Some communities have Twitter feeds, for example, from each of the following: the Mayor, the town, the fire department, the Emergency Manager, and the County. Example 1: Cherry Hill Fire personnel in the field were instructed to subscribe to the Township’s Twitter feed (when the Township’s Emergency Operations Center is activated, all official information is released through the Township and not the Fire Department although both agencies work together as a JIC) either through Twitter directly, or by sending “Follow @CherryHillTwp” via SMS text message to 40404. Analysis: This was the first time this was attempted in Cherry Hill during an event. Personnel were polled afterwards on their thoughts on using Twitter for information dissemination. It seems some technical training might be necessary: ○ Although they say they followed the instructions on how to follow the Twitter account via 40404, several said they didn’t receive any messages (several, it seems, sent the “Follow” message as the phone number and “40404” as the message itself). ○ One commented that he “did not have a smart phone and does not follow twitter.” ○ One Fire Officer who successfully subscribed to the “40404” method was critical:

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

“I had it sent to my phone as a text. This was a mistake on my part. My phone never stopped ringing due to the amount of messages sent. In hindsight, I should have just opened a twitter account and followed it when I wanted to. I’m not a big twitter fan so I personally didn’t like it.” Other Officers, however, felt it was a useful tool: ○ “I, along with several of my family members, signed up to receive twitter texts feeds during the storm. We all found that the timely info was great. My family felt that they knew what was going on, and what the township was doing. This provided them with a greater level of comfort that they have not had before.” ○ “Yes, my chauffeur did sign-up for the twitter feed and he utilized it throughout the storm. I feel we should continue to use this form of communication. Why Not? This type of technology is the future. Even old guys like me find it useful.”

3.2 At the State Level
Summary: Adoption of new methods is really effectively championed by executives at the very top. This proved very true with the governors of the states that were impacted by Hurricane Irene. Prudent leadership, sensible advice and precautions were demonstrated in many occasions using social media as a channel for communications. Some states, such as Massachusetts, provided a full listing of state agencies and services with a social media presence. Twitter was a particularly popular social networking tool for the governors of the 10 states in Irene’s path. In fact, an analysis of their Twitter use proves revealing.

Observation 1: States found social networking sites to be resilient, even with power outages. Similar to the experience of the local level, they were able to leverage their connection with stakeholders through social networks to obtain real-time information regarding the storms impact. Citizens also flocked to their authoritative sites. Example 1: In Virginia, the Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) relied

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

heavily on the resilience of social networks, especially after many hundreds of thousands of residents lost power. It started with the state’s governor,Bob McDonnell, making good use of Facebook:
Governor McDonnell's Facebook page was updated frequently with pictures of damage. While the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Tweeted the latest safety information, like where to get clean drinking water and power outage info. Their spokesman Bob Spieldenner told us they had someone working full time all weekend just to update their Twitter and Facebook pages. "We found that as people were losing power, some cell phone service was still working, so they were able to get information through Twitter, Facebook, or other means,” said Spieldenner. -- Jarrent Henshaw, NewsAdvance.com, August 26, 2011

Example 2: Delaware was another state that made extensive use of social networks to communicate with residents and, interestingly, to get feedback and receive information from them on the storm’s impact. State government officials received kudos from FEMA on their efforts and also from their own constituents because they were responsive to the input from residents: “Just as important, and amazing, is how the public was able to offer updates, get
questions answered, and offer their gratitude to the people helping them. Think about this for a minute, the Governor posts a driving ban and immediately people have questions – “what about people working at hospitals, can they drive home after their shift?” and “what about people obligated by contract to show up for their shift, regardless of weather conditions?” – the Governor and his staff were able to address those issues quickly and effectively. There is no way this could have happened just a few years ago.”

-- Ken Grant, TownSquareDelaware.com, August 30, 2011 Example 3: New Jersey Governor Christie used Twitter very extensively to engage with residents, media and other stakeholders during Hurricane Irene. He has the reputation of a plain-speaking politician, It seems the same applies online:
“While it’s difficult to know how much of an effect the tweet had in the real-time conversation swirling around the decision to evacuate or not, it is clear that the impact the declaration made online and in media reports about it greatly amplified his straightforward message. For today’s politicians, online influence is now part of their overall ability to be effective in their work.:

-- blog post, Dean, Smith & Partners. August 30, 2011 Observers contrasted the different use of social networks by Governor Christie (NJ) and Governor Cuomo (NY). Whereas the tweets

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

from Albany were very formal and summarized official statements, his counterpart in Trenton personalized his tweets and conveyed in them the info he passed on in news conference so that it was still available to those without power and who couldn’t watch TV or listen to the radio. Example 4: Massachusetts made good use of various social network accounts to keep residents informed about the impact of the storm, response activities and recovery efforts. Facebook was used to provide brief but detailed information:

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick used his Twitter account to provide avenues on how residents could access information.

Example 5: In Vermont, a state severely affected by the hurricane, officials turned to social media to complement their overloaded 2-1-1 phone system used to provide information to residents.
“One of our priorities was to get the 211 telephone system staffed to the appropriate level to handle this unprecedented call level,” Gov. Shumlin said. He noted that social media, including Facebook, has also enabled Vermonters to volunteer, donate cash to help victims of the storm, and stay up to speed on road closing and other issues. -- from State of Vermont News Release issued on August 30, 2011

The benefits of the use of social media as emergency information tools were noted in the daily report issued by the state’s Emergency Operations Centre on August 31, under the SSF 14 (Public Information) section:
“Social media still proving to be an incredible tool for reaching tens of thousands of people at a time.”

Bill Morris, lead on the Vermont Flooding Map (an Ushahidi deployment) notes that when Vermont’s official channels were overwhelmed, crowdsourced information through

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

social media filled the void: “The state 211 and 511 systems were in place to receive reports of road damage and emergency requirements, but they were quickly swamped with calls(2 staff members between them) and shut down. Additionally, the state Emergency Response agency was forced to evacuate its offices when the floodwaters rose, leaving no traditional information-dissemination infrastructure. Twitter, Facebook, Ushahidi and a local site called VTResponse.com stepped into that role without a hitch.”

Observation 2: Ordinary citizens also played a key role in offering repositories of available and trusted sources of information related to the storm that were then made available to official and state emergency management organizations. In many cases, these were listing of accounts used by local and state agencies on Twitter and other social networks. Example 1: Sara Estes Cohen (@saraestescohen), a consultant working on information sharing, social media, and emergency response, gathered a list of 350 Twitter profiles representing government agencies, non-profit and private organizations working in public safety, and volunteer groups preparing for Irene. She worked in tandem with her colleagues at G&H International Services in Washington, D.C. They located the profiles by searching by keyword (“emergency management,” “public safety,” etc.), and by searching east coast state emergency management agency websites for Twitter profile information. They also identified additional profiles to include (www.twitter.com/@saraestescohen/east-coast-response-orgs) by looking through lists of followers of already identified accounts. Each profile was vetted for authenticity by looking at the name, geo-location (if available), description, followers, and past tweets.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

East Coast Response Organization Twitter List (www.twitter.com/ @saraestescohen/east-coast-response-orgs) This list became a valuable resource for those involved and interested in the response to Irene as a central stream of information from agencies up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The list was shared among government agencies, media, non-profit and private organizations, and concerned citizens. The Florida Department of Emergency Management made significant use of the list. (see section 4) For more information on these efforts, please see Engaging Citizens the Right Way: Government Uses Twitter During Hurricane Irene located at www.zdnet.com.

Observation3 : aggregation of state data Analysis: While states used social media to push information in a very robust manner, it is necessary for those organizations to keep in mind how the end-user will be receiving this content. Tweets that include hyperlinks that point the user to shelter locations, as shown in the example above, can prove frustrating to those who can’t access the Internet or phone services but still have access to the social network via their mobile devices. Twitter can be viewed even

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

when the user has one “bar”. The same is not true for a website.

3.3 At the Federal Level
Summary: Led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), federal organizations responded to Hurricane with a vast array of social media resources. We will look at some examples by leading agencies/departments in addition to FEMA. Observation 1: Social networks were used to send just-in-time information regarding how citizens should prepare for the approaching storm including how to use social networks to send and receive information. This robust use of social platforms continued as the storm passed and as communities made their way into the recovery phase. Citizens found these federal sources of information relevant and important as is evident by the large number of followers and hits to these agency’s sites.
In early June, the Commerce Department’s National Hurricane Center Facebook page had about 17,000 fans. As of Aug. 25, the page had 80,336 fans. Other popular Facebook sites include the National Weather Service, with 73,265 fans; and FEMA, with 50,524 fans. Facebook’s own DC Live page, which has 43,042 fans, produced a video on Hurricane Irene with the National Weather Service, Health and Human Services Department and American Red Cross. On Twitter, the hurricane center’s Atlantic Coast feed (@NHC_Atlantic) currently has 26,374 followers. With Facebook and Twitter updates being published by the federal agencies, hundreds of fans and followers were writing and tweeting in response.

-- Alice Lipowicz, Federal Computing Week, August 25, 2011 Example 1: FEMA should receive high marks for effective use of social media as key emergency information and preparedness tools. It starts at the very top of the organization with a leader who is himself very active online (@craigatfema on Twitter). FEMA took great steps in promoting the use of social networks before, during and after Irene hit the Eastern seaboard:

"Mobile phone devices are good tools, but they shouldn't be the only tool," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said to reporters during a conference call about Hurricane Irene. Cell phone mobile networks can often become overwhelmed immediately following a natural disaster as people try to reach out to their family and friends. Posting an update on Facebook or Twitter can be a more efficient way to reach out to loved ones. "Cell systems and any type of system you have, you're gonna have congestion in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake or other disaster,” said Fugate. “Not being able to communicate with loved ones [after such an event] can be very distressing."

-- Rebecca Wood, Hollywood Reporter, August 25, 2011 Example 2: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), parent of

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

the National Weather Service (NWS) and grand-parent of the National Hurricane Centre, maximized the integration of its websites and social network accounts. This helped further position NOAA’s platforms as key destinations to get relevant information on Hurricane Irene: @JustinNOAA Justin Kenney During #Irene, #NOAA websites sent up to 4.54 TB/hour (correction from before, not GB).10 terabytes=Library of Congress!
1 Sep Favorite Retweet Reply

Justin Kenney, NOAA’s Director of Communications and External Affairs, provided a good summary of the successful use of social media, including solid Facebook results. Overall, the prompt, relevant and accessible information provided by NOAA, the NWS and the NHC, contributed to the growing popularity of their respective websites and accounts on social networks
Fun Fact: During the week that preceded Hurricane Irene, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Facebook page received 6.4 million views, 8,000 post comments and “Likes”, and 68,000 new subscribers as concerned citizens flocked to the page to stay updated on the latest news on Hurricane Irene.

Observation 2: Social media does not just include posting to a page or sending a tweet. These sites provide many different tools that can be taken advantage of to communicate directly with the public. Example: NOAA’s online outreach efforts also included taking part in live webcast/video chat on Facebook on how to use various social networks during disasters.

Observation 3: FEMA reached out to its partners and stakeholders to promote its own social network accounts and website as key repository of useful information and preparedness tips. Administrator Fugate made note of the the other levels of government and people themselves that were using social networks to share information. This can only be accomplished if an organization has established itself as a credible and relevant source.

Observation 4: Mobile applications were introduced for citizens to use to access information. Example: Another key achievement for FEMA was the launch of personal/family emergency preparedness apps for mobile devices, a strong move in ensuring that the Administration can reach its audiences through a variety of means:
"When we built the app, we kept the disaster survivor in mind, making sure much of the information would be available even if cell phone service isn’t," FEMA's senior manager for digital engagement, Shayne Adamski, wrote in a blog post, "so you’ll be able to access the important information on how to safe after a disaster, as well as your family emergency meeting locations." -- Nick Judd, Tech President/Personal Democracy Forum, August 26, 2011

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

3.4 NGOs and Service Agencies
Summary: Non-governmental organizations are often at the leading edge of implementation of new technologies. Being more flexible and responsive to the needs of their clients and stakeholders, NGOs adapt quickly to new realities and this apples to social media use in disasters. Recent disasters have repeatedly showed the value of social media in the realms of volunteer and donations coordination. Observation 1: Organizations used their existing social media presence to disseminate information and to leverage this presence to expand their audience and to implement new techniques and processes. Example 1: The American Red Cross (ARC) is a recognized leader in the push to integrate SM into emergency management.
“For this hurricane season, and for the foreseeable future, calling 911 is the best first action to take for emergency assistance during a disaster,” says Harman. “But as the numbers of people using these new technologies in disaster situations continue to increase, response agencies, including the Red Cross, have a tremendous opportunity to use the technologies to listen, inform, and empower people.” -- Wendy Harman, Director, Social Strategy, ARC, from blog post, New Public Heatlh, August 29, 2011

Example 2: Hurricane Irene gave the ARC the opportunity to greatly expand its reach on social networks and provide valuable information:
For Hurricane Irene, the Red Cross used volunteers to listen as well as respond in the social media space, to ensure 24 hour coverage during the storm. Their team of digital volunteers, already trained in public affairs and talking to the media, used specific language to represent themselves as Red Cross voices online. The organization also worked with Twitter to create a special badge that marked volunteers' Twitter accounts as valid and official sources of information. You can find out more about how the Red Cross used social media throughout the weekend in this video.
-- Sarah, Blog Post, NTEN (Non-profit Technology Network), August 30, 2011

Example 3: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also used social media to promote its role in disasters and provide valuable information. For many, knowing if their pets are welcome on public transportation and in shelters is a major consideration. Using social networks and legacy media, the ASPCA was able to communicate that valuable information and alleviate lots of fear.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 4: The Salvation Army played a key role in the disaster response effort by helping feed thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Irene. Regarding their use of social media and mobile technology, the organization’s volunteers were armed with GPS-equipped phones which allowed for greater coordination and used social networks to make residents aware of their disaster response posture and the location of its canteens:
“The Salvation Army is also relying on social media, turning to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other channels to get the word out about available services, locations of services and resources needed to support the response and relief efforts” -- Ashleigh Delamar, blog post, SA Emergency Disaster Services, August 31, 2011

3.5 Digital volunteers and empowered citizens
Summary: The “age of social convergence”, where social media twinned with mobile technologies and devices have empowered citizens, brings both challenges as well as opportunities to the emergency management community. To put it succinctly, citizens no longer just want to be witnesses and victims of disasters; they also want to contribute. Hurricane Irene was no exception. Whether individually or through a Volunteer Technical Community (VTC) people who are not tied normally considered first responders can make a real difference by offering various portals to valuable information for those affected by an emergency. This section of the report will take a look at some of the contribution of various VTCs and individuals before, during and after, Hurricane Irene. This cannot be a complete listing of all the fantastic work accomplished during that period but will serve to illustrate the valuable contributions of dedicated groups and individuals. Observation 1: Volunteer Technical Communities quickly mobilized their resources and put together various platforms that offered valuable information for those impacted by the storm. More often than not, volunteers engaged in these initiatives came from areas far removed from Irene’s path. Members of various VTCs collaborated effectively which resulted in better coordinated efforts and products.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 1: Project EPIC at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a leading example of the use of social media by citizens to inform the public but also emergency managers during disasters. Its “tweak the tweet” program (TtT”) is a fantastic tool based on the participatory nature of social networks, in this case Twitter:
Of course, one fantastic aspect of social media is the social part – it means you can ask specific things in it and get a response, and it doesn’t matter what kind of social standing you have. It also means people can come together to put little bits of information in, and create a really reliable, up to date repository of information that others can search on. Social media makes ‘crowdsourcing’ possible, relevant and, particularly in crisis events, timely. -- Post by Jo White (@MediaMum), August 28, 2011

These collected tweets, received from Kate Starbird (Project EPIC, @katestarbird on Twitter), provide a good illustration of the success of TtT during Hurricane Irene:
“Will say that our TtT efforts grabbed 700+ reports - definitely record. Far more vols participating & direct reporting. Though I'm downplaying it a bit, we did hear from one major agency - said they were using our data to determine "disaster" status for areas.”

She notes that more can still be accomplished by ensuring that crowdsourcing and crisis mapping initiatives really meet the needs of the emergency management community:
“But I'm not sure if map-mashups are the best or the only way to make that data useful. Need to develop more tools. Need to know EM needs. More importantly, how it COULD be used if we can figure out what/how to get it to affected/responders. We got some feedback that the data was being used, both by individs & orgs. Looks like possibilities reaching mainstream.”

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 2: Hurricane Irene Recovery Map Contributor: Heather Blanchard, CrisisCommons During Hurricane Irene an informal group of volunteers and technology communities focused their efforts on supporting Aaron Huslage’s Hurricane Irene Recovery Map. This group of individuals, ad hoc networks, crisis response organizations and non profits coordinated through a series of Skype chats and coordination conference calls to support the launch, volunteer coordination, technical assistance, data collection and mapping of the Hurricane Irene Recovery Map. The known technology volunteer communities who responded or provided support were GIS Corps, CrisisCamp, Humanity Road, Crisismappers, Standby Taskforce and Geeks without Bounds. Technical support was also given by the platform developers at Ushahidi. The project reached out to organizations such as FEMA, American Red Cross, National and State Voluntary Agencies Organized for Disaster (VOAD). People from across the world took part, which enabled the map to be updated on a 24/7 basis. The community worked from August 27 - September 1 to launch and support the Hurricane Irene Recovery Map. The below is a selection of perspectives received as lessons learned from several of the participants. Snapshot Review Hurricane Irene Recovery Map Opportunities realized: ● Volunteers were able to mobilize quickly using email and twitter notifications. ● Assignment coordination was handled efficiently through Skype. ● Frequent conference calls were organized to provide overall coordination and direction. Challenges encountered: ● Some difficulties in attracting volunteers with the right technical skillset to support the Ushahidi deployment (CM/CS software platform) though eventually all issues were identified and corrected. ● Crisis mapping effort did not receive enough local media attention in all areas affected by the storm which limited its reach with audiences. ● The huge area impacted by the storm added to the complexity of the crisis mapping efforts. ● Limited preexisting relationships provided more obstacles in the set up of the crisis mapping endeavour. ● The absence of open data repositories limited the amount of information conveyed by the crisis map and the wiki page. ● Lack of technical (IT) infrastructure added to the usual difficulties in getting the project started. Example 2: additional observations on the Hurricane Irene Recovery Map Technology Volunteer Perspective: Aaron Huslage (lead, Hurricane Irene Recovery Map) “I originally started the project before the hurricane hit to be there in case something

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

bigger happened, was good to practice this stuff, if we could help one or two people that would be good. I was contacted by friends at WRAL TV, they cover NC and VA with their website and TV. They were aware that I was doing this, they asked if they could use it. Emergency operations centers (EOCs) are really good at understanding where the floods are or where the power outages are, however, they aren’t so good in providing tactical information down to a particular house is flooded or road blocked by a fallen tree. The technology volunteer community can provide that. Its a partnership that’s needed to improve response and recovery efforts.” Volunteer Technology Community Coordinator Perspective: Shoreh Elhami, GISCorps “Some of the information such as power outages (in a geocoded data) were hard to come by. Different states and counties do things differently. We are currently working with the Standby Taskforce to come up with a menu of applications and products of how we can ensure those kinds of tools are available to us.” Volunteer Technology Community Coordinator Perspective: Chris Thompson, Humanity Road “In this particular event, the challenge was the breadth of geography. We were concerned with having enough resources to support the entire event and not able to get all the local media sources that were out there. For the future, we are excited to see the further collaboration with GIS Corps and the intregration of data layers which can reduce significantly the number of keystrokes for data entry. We are looking forward to an enhanced data layer so media monitoring capacity that is available can be focused on searching for information.” Technology Volunteer Perspective: Nigel McNie (NZ) PHP advisory role “I was able to keep an eye on the site while the US was asleep so we could provide 24/7 monitoring. I was able to draft in Ben Bradshaw (NZ) who worked with us on the Christchurch Recovery Map (CrisisCamp New Zealand) and he helped us fixed bugs and improved the usability of the site. As he worked with us on the CCNZ site, he tried to move some of the things we learned earlier this year (i.e. the report entry form, titles and such) from the CCNZ to the Irene Map.” Observation 2: Many people in the path of turned to social media to keep themselves informed and ensure their friends and family were safe. A good overview of this phenomena here. But ordinary citizens also played a key role in offering repositories of available and trusted

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

sources of information related to the storm. In many cases, these were listing of Twitter and other social networks accounts used by agencies dealing with the impact of Hurricane Irene. Example 1: Scott Gauvin (@scottcgauvin), an emergency manager from Illinois and an avid user of social media, gathered a very consequential list of social media accounts used by agencies, groups and government responding to Irene. What’s more, he collated that information on a Google Map to great success. A move that received positive feedback from other EM officials. The map based in Google Maps also incorporated the actual track of the hurricane, storm surge warnings, shelter locations and the Twitter and Facebook links to each of the pins for the local or state accounts that were mapped. The maps intent was to serve not only as a pre-landfall resource, but more importantly a post-landfall resource to know exactly where to go to get good information after to storm came on shore.

Based on the information from these sources post-landfall decisions could be made on how other efforts could be potentially waged to assist those communities. After the map received high praise during the event, Scott is looking to broaden the map to cover all of the local, state and NGO accounts in each state so that no matter where an event takes place it will be easy to geographically and visually zero in the the event whether it is a no notice event or a event that develops over days.

Example 2: Other social networks were also used, in addition to Twitter and Facebook. For many, Youtube provided the perfect outlet to voice their opinion about the storm and how government and agencies responded to it. Many residents also chose the channel to extend the reach of official government messaging. http://www.youtube.com/user/citizentube#p/c/836C5331A28259C5/9/L9DtwB2sjCU Example 3: The residents and property owners on the North Folk of Long Island, NY, Residents, led by Joanna Lane, a true champion of the use of social media in

have banded to

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

emergencies, were able to collate valuable information about Hurricane Irene and make it available on a variety of channels.

From a wikipage to their Facebook page, the people behind Southold Voice made a difference and offered valuable preparedness tips and information during the storm.

Example 4: A well-known contributor to various crisis mapping and crowdsourced efforts in disasters is Laura Madison (@org9 on Twitter). From Northwestern Ontario, her work during Irene was noticed in many circles as a potent demonstration of the power of individuals, even those remote from impacted areas, during a crisis. One of the areas she focuses on is preparing lists of organizations and agencies that use social media. Her lists on Twitter have proven very useful and have been promoted by government officials at all levels. Here’s an example.

Laura Madison promotes constant adjustments and flexibility in the use of social mapping during disasters to ensure that local needs remain a priority.
“I also tuned in to various police and emergency scanner feeds to get a scene of priority and try to adapt my focus as projected landfall course comes to pass.”

Her work in collating trusted sources of information did not go unnoticed:
“Vermont was still struggling badly but i did see and assist with promoting for them their community response which was utterly phenomenal. The Governor of the state retweeted (my lists/posts) and spoke to me as i was trying to get him to acknowledge his citizenry mapping project via twitter and to see what great work they were doing. He did and that was great to see and a personal first to see a head of government retweet a citizen crisismap. I think is also significant in terms of Irene milestones.”

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

3.6 Legacy Media and the Private Sector
Summary: Private sector organizations, in the technology business or media companies are adopting SM, CM and CS tools as a way to keep pace with the expectations of their clients and audiences. In many cases, media outlets partnered with technology firms to put their own crisis mapping endeavours together. More and more people are calling for greater openness to government data as a way to speed emergency response and recovery efforts. The growing phenomenon of “data journalism” is one of the main reasons behind this movement. Observation 1: Traditional, or legacy media, organizations are now routinely engaging with their audiences through social media. More and more, this also takes the shape of CS and CM. This provides many advantages for news organizations as they can now rely on thousands of contributors during disasters who will voluntarily share pictures, tweets, text messages and their observations on damages and the response by official agencies. Example 1: The New York Times, collaborated with radio station WNYC, to gather citizens’ reports and feedback on Hurricane Irene damages. They used SMS text messaging to plot reports from listeners/readers on a crowdmap. The firm Mobile Commons coordinated the technological support on behalf of the two media outlets.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 2: The Baltimore Sun made extensive use of its crowdmap interface during Irene to track the impact of the storm through the experience of its readers.

Example 3: The Weather Channel, like many other legacy media organizations, has recognized the value of social media during emergencies. It’s an obvious fit with a weather-related disaster making news.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 4: Dan Dowling, a broadcast meteorologist from WCAX-TV in Burlington, VT, put together stories and social media posts on the impact of Hurricane Irene in his area. Using a social media curation tool, he was able to provide a very comprehensive repository of information to his station’s viewers and other residents.

http://www.scoop.it/t/vtirene Example 5: The Burlington based alternative weekly magazine Seven Days, created a crowdsourced crisis map featuring photos and videos of the impact on the state.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Observation 2: Private enterprise is very nimble and adapts quickly to the marketplace. so it’s

not surprising to note that technology firms and social networks themselves capitalized on their expertise to offer destinations of choice for social media afficionnados during Irene, 28

An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Many private sector organizations have also been quick to adopt social networks as business continuity and continuity of operations tools.

Example 1: CiviGuard, the alerting and notification tool launched in 2010 by three students from Singularity University was “battletested” in New York City during Irene.

CiviGuard created the “Should I evacuate?” mobile app for the storm. CiviGuard uses social networks, SMS text messaging, an HTML5 web app to reach people. It uses the widespread use of broadband and smartphones in the Big Apple.

Example 2: Facebook itself, the juggernaut of social networks, used it Global Disaster Relief page during Irene.

In addition, the Facebook Irene community page was a popular destination. The social media giant also helped its users by providing useful tips on how to use its network

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

during emergencies and ensure they retain access. Example 3: Not to be outdone, another web giant also used its vast resources and expertise during crises to provide channels and support to those keeping track of the storm and deliver information. Google’s Crisis Response page has been displaying maps detailing the progress of storms, including Hurricane Irene.

4. How official agencies integrated social media based, crisis mapping and crowdsourcing initiatives in their efforts
Many government agencies either directly used crisis mapping or put links on their websites to crowdsourced information and maps. There is growing recognition by agencies and different levels of government that there is a very large volume of relevant and valuable data/info out there that can be integrated in their planning: for emergency information delivery, for response operations and recovery efforts. Observation 1: Governments will often use third-party consultants and groups to “ease” them into the process of tapping into existing volunteer and citizen crowdsourcing and crisis mapping efforts. Example 1; The Department of Homeland Security’s First Responder Technologies Program and Florida’s Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), in partnership with G&H International, created an Irene Twitter web service that aggregated a Twitter list of social media resources related to the storm into dynamic data layers. This initiative was made available to officials from every state on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Agencies could then view, sort, search, and analyze the information from within their native geospatial mapping environment (i.e. Google Earth, ESRI’s ArcGIS, etc.), overlain with other official data sets such as shelter, EOC, and road status, weather patterns, deployed resources, and more to have improved situational awareness. FDEM then published the Irene Twitter web service on GATOR, the state’s geospatial

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

platform that was developed for use during emergency response and that was tracking developments relating to Irene.

Screenshot of FDEM Gator Map with Live Irene Twitter Web Service Data Layer

Observation 2: Official agencies at all levels will use the information provided through successful and well-established volunteer-created crisis mapping and crowdsourcing means. Example 1: from Bill Morris, lead, Vermont Flooding Map “I was extremely impressed with how quickly municipal, state and federal agencies recognized the value of crowdsourced reports. Within the 1st week after the storm, FEMA, NGA,

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

state AOT, Google and 4 regional planning commissions had requested a live feed from our Ushahidi deployment. State road updates in particular were quickly mashed up with power grid conditions and Ushahidi reports on a Google-served map: http://bit.ly/nkSQry. In all, the various agencies quickly and efficiently pivoted to leverage every possible information stream.

Bill Morris (Vermont Flooding Map): “We worked to include more of a citizen-science role in support of USGS and state natural resources management: http://www.highwatervt.org/. This is now being coordinated by the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (www.vcgi.org), so it could be said that crowdsourcing is now a fully-adopted strategy for official agencies in the state.”

5. Suggestions on how to better coordinate related activities at all levels
Summary the use of social media is still in its nascent form. Every major incident or emergency reveals the vast potential offered by emerging technologies and points to areas of improvement. Observation 1: The crisis mapping communities were very involved in providing information on the hurricane. Their efforts, which resulted in impressive results, offered hints to much better future endeavours.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 1: The groups behind the Hurricane Irene Recovery Map (CrisisCommons, GIS Corps, Humanity Road, Crisismappers, Standby Taskforce and Geeks without Bounds) identified obstacles and corrective actions that could be used to overcome them in future deployments. General recommendations for successful future crisis mapping and crowdsourcing partnerships ● Overall ○ Need to set up a dedicated Ushahidi instance for future events ○ Relationships need to be built beforehand, including with those who own data, need local engagement at official level ○ Focus GIS volunteers on hardcore data needs, develop suite of possible products ● Ushahidi Platform ○ Have a dedicated instance which is already ready to go and bug free ○ Develop a core group of technical advisors who can pitch in if necessary ● Volunteer Management ○ Create a way to identify new volunteers in a group effort, make sure they have a “buddy” ○ Recruit (and manage) more technical volunteers (PHP) and Usability (UXUI) Recommendations (provided by Aaron Huslage, Lead, Hurricane Irene Recovery Map) Going forward, digital volunteers need to focus on local issues by using crisis mapping as a local resource. Instead of worrying about widespread power outages, we should focus on hyper-local issues such as trees down in neighborhoods which might be more useful information for residents. We also need to get people to work together. For example, get local media involved and local news websites in promoting, using and getting their users/viewers to collaborate. Recommendations provided by Chris Thompson Its really difficult to get power outage information in a local area. There can be 4-5 companies in one town. There is a need for other layers like shelters and hospitals. We know they are already out there. We need to work hard on making partnerships before the event. Why not find way to make the data available to us (technology volunteers) so that folks like GIS Corps can create products and harvest their resources.

Observation 2: There is a need for greater openess and data availability from many organizations, including social networks. This would facilitate the work of volunteers in quickly setting up crisis maps shortly after the onset of incidents or disasters.

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

Example 1: (from Bill Morris, Lead, Vermont Flooding Map) “There is a need for Facebook to open its data to volunteers. Several irene-related facebook pages popped up quickly after the storm and saw robust information-sharing traffic on the order of thousands of posts. None of this information was accessible via API, export, etc. Hundreds of users were posting and requesting valuable information, but that traffic was locked in a completely-closed ecosystem. Several state and local agencies expressed frustration at this. It was painful to scroll through the posts and not have the time to manually transfer all the key information into the integrated channels of Google, Ushahidi and VTResponse. This was an excellent example of the necessity of open data in crisis situations.”

6. Open comment section
(to come from at-large contributors)

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An analysis of the use of social media, crowdsourcing and crisis mapping during Hurricane Irene

7. Conclusion
We hope that we have captured as many examples of the use of social media, crisis mapping and crowdsourcing as possible and that this will provide further impetus to the adoption of emerging technologies by the emergency management community. It is paramount to note that the work of volunteers, whether individually or collectively, provides the basis for a whole new participatory movement in the response and recovery from disasters. Every citizen’s tweets, SMS message, Facebook post, Youtube videos and so on, can bring enhanced situational awareness that can greatly improve the operational capabilities of emergency management organizations, particularly in tight fiscal environments. The objective of this collection of facts was never to collate all such examples, but, rather, to demonstrate the new reality of empowered citizens and volunteers in disasters brought by mobile technologies and social networks. This revolutionary trend toward the “age of social convergence” in emergency management, foretells of a future bright with closer collaboration between governments, agencies, volunteer organizations and ordinary citizens. This closer relationship should contribute to build better prepared communities by harnessing the power of social networks as public education tools. It will also ensure responses more closely matched to the actual needs of people impacted by disasters who now have the ability to instantly share what they experience and what their needs are. Finally, mobile technologies and social networks have already proven their ability to help foster, create or strengthen communities affected by disasters and help speed up the recovery process. We believe that these observations have proven true again in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, It is our hope that this document can help provide stronger arguments to convince executives and elected officials about the need to integrate social media and the extraordinary contribution of volunteers and citizens, in all aspects of local, state and even federal emergency planning activities, response operations, exercise programs and recovery efforts.

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