4. Work with others to gain information, encourage the sharing of information and the building of situational awareness

For an adequate response, during or in the aftermath of a crisis (also in terms of accountability), information about the crisis situation (areas seriously affected by the disaster, related needs and request for help, etc.) is key. Seek out (other) organizations, governments and emergency services, involved in the crisis management or citizens reporting about it as they might provide useful information. Check the information circulating in your network and beyond (e.g., through citizens) and monitor information coming in through your own social media accounts. Where required, you can also put in a request for specific information. Social media users can be explicitly asked to gather crisis-relevant information that could be used in the crisis response. For instance, in the case of a large-scale building collapse, ask users to take pictures of the disaster site. Or, ask people to check information provided by other social media users or first responders at the scene of the event. Such activities will help to build situational awareness.

It is important to specify that citizens can help and how during an actual crisis as they might not know this.

Key steps: 
  • Monitor relevant communication channels, e.g., websites or Twitter accounts of (other) emergency services or (citizen) journalists.
  • Cooperate and interact with the sources of information to elicit more specific information for key issues.
    • Pose questions that will help you to get a clearer picture of the situation.
    • Ask your sources to recommend more sources.
  • Make it explicit that citizens can help public and private organizations through sharing content on social media. State explicitly what will be done with this information and how long it takes before emergency responders will use the information.
  • Clarify what citizens can and should do, especially how they can support crisis management activities. Try not to emphasize what citizens should not do.
    • Distribute a short list of do’s (and don’ts) in recording and sharing content about the crisis situation at hand, which can be easily shared.
    • Share Tweets and Facebook posts in which followers are encouraged to share pictures and factual information about emergencies.
    • Specify other contributions that are needed and where to find explicit directions
    • Communicate explicitly to citizens when they are allowed to take pictures and share information about the emergency.
    • State that taking pictures and sharing information should not interfere with the on-site emergency work.
  • Make clear that social media applications will not replace the emergency number.
  • State when there is an exception, e.g., when traditional warning methods are not functioning, and how to proceed then.
  • Ask your target audience to provide updates about the situation and related needs.
  • Stay in touch with those harmed that contacted you by social media but are not receiving help yet.
Example: 

The Greater Manchester Police has a disclaimer on their Twitter page stating crimes have to be reporting through the appointed telephone numbers and that their feed is not monitored continuously.

Guideline Category: