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Social Media in Emergency Management: Capability Assessment

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Technical Report

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Defence Research and Development Canada -Centre for Security Science (CSSP) Ottawa, ON Canada

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Emergency management and first responder organizations around the world are trying to exploit the use of social technologies to prepare for, respond to and recover from crisis. Social media offer the opportunity to connect and cooperate with the networked public, take advantage of the capabilities and innovations of virtual volunteers, and to reach people quickly with alerts, warnings and preparedness messages. Canadas emergency management community has not yet fully embraced social media. This report describes an effort to understand the state of maturity of the use of social media in emergency management as well as to create a roadmap for an effective use of this capability in Canada. The research involved conducting an environmental scan, consultations with experts and case study analysis. We found that there exists an awareness and expertise gap between the community of internationally experienced virtual volunteers and the emergency management organizations in Canada and that the potential of social media and online collaboration remains unfulfilled. One of the main challenges to implementing an effective capability is resolving how to bridge the command-and-control, hierarchical culture of emergency management organizations to the horizontal, networked culture of the digital domain. The report offers suggestions on how to improve and mature the implementation of social media in emergency management in Canada.

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