US: Today, a variety of electronic notification systems and EOC (Emergency Operations Center) information management systems are found in mid- to larger-sized jurisdictions. The next step in emergency management is to establish a platform for the use of social media to communicate with citizens and organisations in a two-way and multi-dimensional format. One way to promote this interaction before, during and after a disaster is the use of a Disaster Wiki, proposed Eric Holdeman, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Consultant in the US.
Hodeman observed that there are social media tools, being used following large scale disasters. Enterprising citizens with the energy and expertise are setting up online forums for communicating with their neighbours about all of the areas discussed above. Now is the time for governments to take the initiative and work in concert with their ‘region’ to pre-establish a Disaster Wiki so that it is available when disasters strike their communities.
In the article, Disaster Wiki: Get Ready NOW to Harness Social Media!, published by Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), Holdeman explained, “At the start of an emergency or disaster it is difficult to determine what is actually happening. Where are events occurring, what damages are being inflicted and what are the greatest needs for the community response? What a Wiki can access is a network of thousands of remote sensors capable of reporting and documenting damages as they are occurring. These instruments are handheld, geo-locatable devices that have audio, picture and video capabilities – they are called cell phones.”
Holdeman added, “With a Wiki there can be scores if not hundreds of reports coming in on a single point incident, or across a broader regional disaster. One of the beauties of this reporting is that these individual reports can be automatically posted to a map that will rapidly give first responders and emergency managers an inkling of what is happening, where there are needs and the scope of what is going on. Yes, there may be some inaccurate reporting, just as there is today with existing systems, but with a Wiki it can be self correcting as there are many more reporting entities. Studies have shown the impact of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ when people share the information burden.”
According to Holdeman, it could be possible to use a Disaster Wiki as a trading post for people with needs and those who want to help.