On 27 November 2014, Robert MISKUF (PSCE), representative of COSMIC project, participated to the first POP-ALERT stakeholder workshop during which the the first results of the project were presented.
Participants had a chance to share ideas and information on the populations’ behaviour in the context of a crisis, the ways in which different populations are organised in communities, the best ways to reach and raise awareness within these communities, discussing priority issues for the European citizens, etc.
COSMIC representative participated to the discussion related to the Use of Social Media in Crisis Management. This topic explores how Emergency Authorities (EA) might use contemporary media, specifically web-based social media like Twitter and Facebook on personal computers and data devices to enhance communication and awareness during a crisis.
The use of personal devices in particular has introduced spontaneity to report observations, request assistance and the opportunity to maintain awareness with transfers of information from multiple sources.
The access to open, multiple and real-time sources is now an everyday activity for many millions of citizens and one they therefore would wish to use in emergencies. This has prompted commentators to discuss issues like:
- ethical use,
- the validity of information,
- requesting EA assistance on unmonitored sites;
- the inability of EA to respond fast enough,
- managing volumes of information, and
- developing applications for personal devices.
Studies have shown that EA and citizens consider social media as a good communication tool both for distributing and receiving information. The negative aspects, both groups seem to be aware of limitations such as marginalization of people who don't use social media, reliability of information, and lack of control over information like spreading of false information. An important finding is that citizens could support ongoing disaster relief by providing information about the current situation in the forms of photos, video and audio messages, and information about location of events.
The purpose for both groups is the transfer of information, frequently offering citizens guidelines on how to act in crisis situations and what kind of actions they are expected to take (education, prior, during and post). Many EA expect central coordination of social media to avoid confusion and information overload and ensure messages are consistent.
Against this background suggestions have been made on how to manage social media from the EA perspective but this questions the overall fluidity of a developing and uncontrolled technology that is simply ‘owned’ by the user. Benefits international have been seen in the exposure of oppressive regimes or the lack of care of individuals reach such a point of public concern that authorities, governments and the international community as a whole is forced to act.
The feedback and knowledge gained during the workshop will be carefully analysed and reflected in the final COSMIC guidelines.
More information about POP-Alert project is available here: http://www.pop-alert.eu/