Today, a friend of mine asked me to join her at her Interfaith Spiritualist church. While I found the service to be a little on the hokey side, the speaker said a few things which really resonated with me. In particular, he stated that while our world was changing quickly, we needed to embrace that change, rather than shy away from it. I couldn’t help but think that his message was incredibly relevant to emergency management.
With the rise of social media, new technologies, and increased fears about the earth’s sustainability, there are hundreds of reasons to feel nostalgic for the “olden days”, or a time when we weren’t quite so reliant on technology. Being a lover of vintage fashion, the outdoors, and classic movies, I have a longing for tradition as well. As I’ve spent the last year learning more about the field of EM and business continuity, however, I’ve realized that while we need to have a respect for tradition and tried-and-true methods, we can’t ignore the importance of new technology to promote resiliency and awareness.
Social media is a perfect example of this. It has been an incredibly useful tool for emergency management agencies and businesses outside the field. It’s also created a new set of problems which have prompted some organizations to believe that social media may be more trouble than its worth. The reality is that social media is not going away. Ignoring its applications will make you more, not less, vulnerable to its potential downsides. Rather than avoid social media in an attempt to minimize it’s damage, emergency management organizations need to embrace it as a tool to promote personal responsibility for the public, increase situational awareness for first responders, and a forum for the public to interact with emergency managers and each other to address their own needs.
There is a huge benefit to maintaining a capability to communicate using traditional means, such a public broadcasting and amateur radio operators, but in order to have a well-rounded communications strategy, organizations also need to be able to use social media and effectively address the new obstacles it creates. I suspect that, as with everything in life, a careful balance is needed to maximize the benefits of new technologies and traditional methods of emergency management.