US Senate hears testimony on the role of social media in crisis response

If you watched today’s hearing in the United States Senate on the role of social media in emergency management, “you witnessed a turning point in Gov 2.0,” says Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. It’s certainly an important moment for the global community that has used these channels to communicate, coordinate and response to both recognize and share. CPAN’s video of the event is embedded below:



The Social Media for Emergency Management (SM4EM) blog has a great summary of SMEM on Capitol Hill, including a link to Crisis Commons co-founder Heather Blanchard’s written testimony.

The excellent speakers provided key examples of use and statistics on the use of social media during crisis situations. Some of these incredible examples included:

  • Direct communication between an eyewitness & Director Fugate during an emergency
  • Pace of fundraising that the Red Cross has experienced through their text campaign
  • The use of iPhone applications to share information about shelters
  • Google’s Person Finder application supporting recent disasters which was active 90 minutes after Japan’s earthquake
  • Skype use between communication between disaster victims and their families at home
  • Use of Google Maps by soldiers for planning

Here’s a few other insights that stuck me, along with related coverage:

  • “it’s not the technology tool, it’s the data behind it, and the people able to coordinate info”-Heather Blanchard (@poplifegirl)
  • “The best thing would be no “social media” people but that it’s an integral part of every position”- Wendy Harman (@wharman
  • “geotagged social media and data can provide real-time, on the ground situational information”-Heather Blanchard,
  • “When we talk about information overload, what we’re really talking about is a lack of filters”-Heather Blanchard
  • FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (@CraigatFEMA) said under oath that he tweets himself.
  • Fugate also said that some of his peers now rate social media and mobile as important a revolution as radio

Read more:

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.


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