“During the recent tragic explosion in East Harlem, we once again witnessed the powerful role social media plays in disseminating information and coordinating response and recovery activities during a disaster,” Rep. Brooks said. “Last week, people were logging onto Facebook and Twitter for links to local news stories and to view firsthand accounts of damage. City residents were checking social media for vital information such as street closures, where to get assistance and also taking to social media to share their thoughts, and comfort fellow New Yorkers. Social media is not a trend, it’s a new reality.
When used properly, it can save lives and mitigate damage during very challenging situations. In 2013, the Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee heard testimony from cutting edge corporations like Google and Palantir, as well as state and local stakeholders on the topic of social media in emergency management. We learned the potential for greater success is within reach, but there needs to be greater collaboration among all parties involved. By adding representatives from the private sector to the working group, this bill will allow a wider range of stakeholders to share best practices and make recommendations for improvements to government partners.”
The Virtual Social Media Working Group has held meetings since 2012. By requiring the group to file a yearly report with Congress, the legislation ensures members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have an opportunity to review findings and address areas of need. It will also ensure local officials receive more information on using social media to effectively disseminate critical information.
“Far too many local officials lack the understanding of the importance of social media and need guidance on how to use it most effectively in a government setting,” Brooks said. “The working group will provide much needed guidance when it comes to strategic planning and staffing for local communications personnel.”
The legislation expands the diversity of voices providing expertise and offering solutions. In addition to the current chair of the working group – the DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology – the new working group will be co-chaired by a state or local official. The bill also requires members from the working group to come from outside of the federal government. This will include representatives from state or local government, non-profit disaster relief organizations, academia and the private sector.
The new working group is required to hold its first meeting within 90 days of the enactment of the legislation. Its yearly report must address several factors including best practices, recommendations for improving the use of social media and information sharing, and a review of the training available on using social media.
Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana and Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis where she focused on public safety issues. For more information on Congresswoman Brooks, please visit www.SusanWBrooks.house.gov. To read her recent op-ed in Social Media Monthly, click here. To learn more about the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, click here.