Monthly Archives: August 2012

Module 16: Video Content Distribution Basics

Please take 15-25 minutes to complete this module. (This module is quite long–so there are no associated tasks.) 

Objective: To understand the basics of video content distribution and how the service can be utilized for crisis and preparedness communications.

What is a video sharing service?

According to “Short videos are used to communicate all kinds of information by way of websites and popular online video-sharing services. Government agencies use video to convey how-to information… scientific and cultural resources, and news.” You do not have to be a registered user to see content on YouTube or Vimeo, however, you do have to be registered with these sites in order to upload videos.  YouTube, LLC was bought by Google in 2006, and now operates as a subsidiary of Google.

Did you know? YouTube has a US Government “channel” with aggregated video content from all government agencies. The videos are listed in categories, such as “Health and Nutrition” and “Public Safety and Law.” It also has a “Featured Channels” list that provides a quick link to channels such as CDC Streaming Health and HHS.

Three Reasons Why It’s Important for Emergency Management:  

  1. Eyes: According to Tech Crunch, as of January 2012, YouTube had 4 billion views….per DAY!
  2. Stickiness: Adding video content to your website or blog increases the time people spend on your site. According to“Virtually 60% of respondents said they would watch video previous to reading text on the same webpage, and 22% said they generally liked watching video more than browsing text…” In other words, if you have video they stay, if you don’t they leave.
  3. Ability to Share: Video content produced on either Vimeo or YouTube is highly shareable. The viewer simply clicks “Share” and is given the choice of posting the entire video to any of the most popular social networks. There is also an “embed” option. For example, the video below has been embedded on this blog, and people can click on the video and then share it to their own Facebook page. (You do have to choose “Watch on YouTube” in order for the share options to appear.) The ability to share also means that your agency can search for preparedness videos created by other organizations and then share them to your own network. This video, created by the City of Houston with funding from DHS, was widely circulated on social sites by other emergency managers and has been viewed over a million times. (Notice closed caption option only appears when watching on

Video can be used to effectively communicate both preparedness and recovery information. As an example during the devasting tornado season of 2011 FEMA created this video below about debris clean up. Granted, people might not have been able to view the video if their homes were destroyed, unless they had a smart phone or saw it in the relief center. However, because it is shareable, there’s an opportunity for friends or family members of those impacted to see it on social networks and discuss the information with their loved ones.

Furthermore, now that the content has been created, it can be embedded (as I did below) on websites that discuss disaster preparedness and recovery so that people can see the content before a crisis. Your agency can post this content  to your own webpage, blog, Facebook page, etc.

Other uses after a disaster: 

Post disaster, not only are “how-to” videos created regarding recovery information for citizens, but “What’s happening” videos are also appearing more frequently. Ideas:

  • Upload videos of press conferences–this allows people to view the entire thing (in 10 minute segments) not just what the press decides to show.
  • Video tape responders in action–this content can be posted to your   other social sites, such as Facebook, and demonstrates what activities you are accomplishing–again, bypassing the media as the messenger.
  • Post videos of damage to prevent people from doing “disaster tours” in person. After a crisis people tend to be voyeuristic (in Monson after the tornado there were traffic jams due to people coming to see the damage) they want to see what happened. Creating a short video that shows the damage can allow people to understand what occurred, will help provide context (e.g. why recovery is taking so long) and might encourage donations; hopefully, it will also discourage site-seeing. See this video below from the Joplin Independent School District as an example of this.


Watch this “how-to” screen cast from the International Association of the Chiefs of Police” sponsored by the Department of Justice.

Accessible Communication. It's the Law!


According to the Massachusetts Social Media Legal Toolkit: “Agencies using social media sites must provide a link on the landing page to the accessibility policies, if any, of their third party social media host.  Prior to securing a social media identity, agencies must assess and either correct, or provide an accommodation for, any significant accessibility issues associated with the social media site. Regardless of the accessibility of the third party host’s social media tools, agencies remain responsible for ensuring that the content that they post online, either from their own employees or external social media users, is accessible.”

How to make videos accessible is not necessarily an easy task.  YouTube itself has this guidance:

How to create captions and subtitles on YouTube

Captions and subtitles are the dialog of a video in written text format. Sometimes they also include information to help folks follow the dialog, like descriptions of music, phones ringing, and other sounds in a video’s audio track.

Captions and subtitles help make videos accessible to a wider audience by helping folks – especially those who are hard-of-hearing or who speak a different language – understand the audio track to follow along. Captions are in the same language as the video’s audio track while subtitles are in a different language.

You can add captions/subtitles to videos you’ve uploaded. It’s optional but strongly encouraged to make your videos available to as many people as possible.

For more information, please see the following Help Center articles:

Another Resource: Ohio State University’s Web Accessibility Center provides a good “how-to” do captioning which you can find here.

Official Policy Seal

Consider: Policy

Massachusetts: STANDARD EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY (Excerpt from exhibit 3 From the Legal Toolkit)

Insert this language below on your YouTube channel or your website.


To both increase transparency and save money on video hosting and streaming, [INSERT AGENCY NAME] publishes all of our video content, including press releases and to our YouTube channel at [INSERT URL TO YOUTUBE CHANNEL] and embed the videos back on our site.

The [INSERT AGENCY NAME] is responsible solely for the content uploaded to the official YouTube channel, and not for any related videos or linked videos linked from other users, nor for any advertising or other content contained on the YouTube website.

Also note that this video share is hosted by YouTube and is governed by YouTube’s separate website policies, including its Privacy Policy [HOTLINK TO PRIVACY POLICY] and Terms of Service [HOTLINK TO TOS].  These policies apply to your use of YouTube.  For questions, please contact [email contact at agency where user can request information].


privacy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Consider: Privacy

When posting video content on public platforms, such as YouTube, privacy issues can be a huge concern. As a Google post points out: “.. exposure can be risky to the citizens shooting the footage and the people who appear in their videos.”
There is help with this problem. YouTube has a new face blurring tool “that represents a first step toward providing visual anonymity in video.” Although this  feature was designed with videos of activists in war-torn counties in mind, it will also help when posting content, for example, with children whose parents refuse to sign the release form (a sample release form can be found in the legal toolkit–Exhibit 8) or when obtaining a release form is not possible.


This is a lot of info. We hope you will use this page as a resource in the future if you are not ready to stand-up a channel today. Good luck!

More Resources:


Module 15: Social Media Lessons from Hurricane Isaac

English: Hurricane Isaac

English: Hurricane Isaac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hurricane Isaac is on its way to landfall, and social media use is experiencing a surge of its own. There are three efforts that we’d like to draw your attention to.

1. New Orleans, Louisiana or NOLA has a @NOLAReady Twitter account that is followed by almost 4,000 people. They are using this account provide information to citizens about how to prepare, as well as to inform them of what the city is doing as the storm approaches. In fact, they tweeted over 200 times in the 24 hours leading up to Isaac’s land fall. Here are some example tweets:

As an interesting side note, the number of followers on the account does not tell the full story of how many people they actually reach. The TweetReach report on just 50 of their most recent tweets, indicates that they actually reach over 40,000 people. There is another lesson, though: they might have reached more had they included the word Isaac along with the pound sign (#isaac) in each tweet. Another question to consider:  What do you think about how each tweet highlights the Mayor? Good form or is that inserting politics?

(Exercise: Use the website to run statistics on how may people are reached with just one tweet with the term  FEMA Region 4. Tweet Reach is a good analytics site and can help your agency determine or at least demonstrate, the effectiveness of your social campaigns on Twitter. To run an analysis try the term: FEMARegion4 by typing it in the search bar. The report will give you a lot of information. Note what hashtag the region is using in their tweets about this Hurricane. It will take the site a moment to calculate. Enter your results in the questionnaire below.)

2. Google Crisis Map

As mentioned in Module 14, Google has quite a few tools that they bring to bear during a crisis. When an event is big enough Google will stand up a Crisis Response map.  The Tropical Storm Isaac Map provides an example of the many different layers of data are available on their maps, including American Red Cross shelter locations, as well as information from Federal agencies such as NOAA.The map, however,  is only as good as the data; for example, they provide shelter locations but it is possible not all of the ones listed are open for this event.

The map also includes some user-generated content including videos. By choosing the layer “Youtube Videos – Tropical Storm Isaac” the user is taken to a geo-located selection of videos created by people (although in this case it is mostly government agencies) experiencing the storm. For example, one of these videos was produce by Keesler Air Force Base, featuring Brigadier General Brad Spacy (see if you can find it)–he even promotes the Base’s Facebook page as a source of information.

Other map layers:

  • Public Alerts (including evacuation notices for hurricanes, storm warnings, earthquakes, and more.Source:,
  • US Hurricane Evacuation Routes (Routes of evacuation as collected by FEMA (HSIP Gold 2010). Source: FEMA)
  • Radar imagery
  • Cloud imagery
  • Storm location
  • Forecast
  • Wind speed
  • etc, etc,

One of the BEST features is that you can embed this map on websites that allow for html code. This blog, unfortunately does not allow for that.

3. American Red Cross–Seeking Social Media Digital Advocates

In an interesting spin on how to volunteer for the American Red Cross, on their blog today, they asked people to help from their living room–or wherever the computer is. Although some of the activities involve helping to raise funds online, most are only about raising awareness. In the #smem community we call this message amplification. Message amplification simply means that people repeat your message to their followers, which allows for it to be circulated to a much great audience than otherwise would be expected, therefore increasing the reach of each individual post.

Below are the instructions from the Red Cross for how to amplify their message on Facebook:

Use Facebook to inspire action for the Red Cross.”

  1. Go to and like the page
  2. Like, Comment, and Share items from the national Red Cross Facebook page and from your local Red Cross Facebook page every day.
  3. Click the Facebook “Like” button on the homepage of
  4. Share news stories and other content from You’ll find a Facebook share button in lots of places on our website.
  5. Add a Red Cross themed Cover Photo to your profile.
  6. Post one or most of these badges to your newstream to tell the world about your affiliation with the Red Cross.
  7. If you have a Facebook page (rather than a profile) you can add the Donate Tab to your page by visiting this URL: and choosing “Add to my page”

They also have instructions for amplifying their message via Twitter. They state: “Use your personal Twitter account to become a retweet advocate.

  1. If you have a Twitter account, go to
  2. Click Follow
  3. Check back each day and retweet or put in your own words the calls to action from the @RedCross account.
  4. Add a Red Cross themes background to your Twitter page”

There is no reason why public agencies can’t make the same request of their followers. If, for instance, all of the state or local government employees were enlisted as message amplifiers, think how far emergency messages could be distributed.

Your Turn

Case Study: Why it is important to engage on social networks

Reposted, with permission, from iDisaster.

Although Hurricane Isaac ( or #Isaac if you are on Twitter) has still yet to decide where it wants to make landfall in the United States, it has already produced some pretty interesting social media lessons from my perspective. One tweet stood out for me:

In this tweet, a person states “Going through my first Hurricane. I’m actually really scared.”  The American Red Cross answered them by retweeting and adding a simple “Good Luck” to the message, but they also included a link to preparedness information.

At first glance this tweet doesn’t seem that noteworthy. Upon full inspection, however, it can be seen as a representation of  how monitoring social media with specific key words (in this case it was probably “hurricane” since the tweet did not mention Isaac) can create opportunities for engagement, a way to share vital information, as well as a way to help people going through stressful situations. Furthermore, the ARC tweet was repeated 17 times, reaching 1000s.

What the citizen, I’m sure, didn’t understand, is the amount of dedication to social media monitoring it took to be able to answer them. The American Red Cross is legend in its social media prowess, and with good reason. They have devoted time and resources to social media, including carving out space in the Emergency Operations Center for a Digital Ops Center (complete with both hardware and software donated by Dell Computers) in order to monitor social media before, during and after disasters. Why have they committed such effort to social media? My guess is that they understand that it is almost impossible to engage with community members via social networks unless you understand the conversation, and in order to understand the conversation you have to be online, monitoring what is being said. They want to know: What are the concerns? What are people talking about where we might be able to offer assistance? What is needed from us?

If your organization is not using social media, or is only using it to simply push out your message, then you are not able to participate in the conversation, and you are missing opportunities–opportunities to show you care, as well as to educate.

Module 14: Google Products for Archiving and Collaboration


Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Objective: To gain an understanding of the multitude of free Google products that can be used before, during and after a crisis to help first responders with necessary coordination and collaboration activities.

Google has many free services and products for first responders. Their “Crisis Response” page has a list, as well as descriptions and case studies of what they offer, so we won’t repeat that entire page here, but we will highlight two applications. Before you can use any of their products, though, it is necessary to obtain an account. If you are signing up for this service on your work computer then be sure to check with your IT department or web manager first. Having a Google account allows access to their full suite of services, as Google states:

A Google Account lets you access a variety of Google products such as Gmail, Google+, YouTube, and many more. A Google Account includes a Gmail address and a Google Profile…

You can create a Google Account by going to the Account Creation page, or by clicking the Create an account button on the top-right corner of any Google sign-in page. You can use your Google Account with all Google products, so once you create an account — regardless of whether you do it through the Account Creation page or through a specific product’s sign-in page — you can use that username and password with any Google product.

Two Useful Applications

Gmail. Gmail is a great email service that provides 10 GB of storage space, and it has a lot of extra handy features. We find Gmail most useful, however, in the context of using social media. How? Gmail makes archiving social media interactions a breeze. Most social networking services have settings (on Twitter see “How to Change Your Email Preferences“) that allow you to get notifications when activity occurs involving your account. On Twitter, just as an example, you can get emails when:

  • you are sent a direct message;
  • you are sent a reply or mention;
  • you are followed by someone new;
  • someone marks your Tweet as a favorite;
  • your tweets are retweeted.

Facebook has similar notifications. If your account gets busy after a crisis, for instance, these emails can start to really pile up and overwhelm your normal work account–so having an alternate email is a good idea. It is important to receive these social media notifications, though; by saving them, you are archiving your interactions.

Gmail’s filter option is a lifesaver. By creating a filter you can automatically send all emails within the specifications ( from “Facebook” in the example below) to a folder. You can do this in 5 steps:

  1. Click  the box next to the email you want to filter, once you select a message more options will appear at the top of the page.
  2. Select “More”
  3. Select “Filter Messages Like These” from the “More” pull down menu.  This brings up a box that has a few choices; you can add in more information, or just choose “Create filter with this search” in the bottom right corner.
  4. Once you choose to create the filter, you are taken to a box where you can choose what to do with those messages. You can choose to “Skip the Inbox” as well as to apply a label to that message and ALL messages like it (in this case all notifications from Facebook). 
  5. In order to view the filtered messages, simply click on the folder name to the left of the inbox.

Google Docs--If I could only choose one Google application, Google docs would be the one. Why? Coordinating volunteers is just one example of the tool’s utility. When multiple shelters are open, for instance, trying to determine who has signed up for what time, and where, can be an administrative nightmare. Volunteers can get very frustrated when they show up to work only to be told–after driving for two hours–that they are not needed because someone else also signed up that shift. An online, collaborative document can solve that problem. Google docs states that their product allows users to:

  • Share and collaborate in real time with volunteers, co-workers, and partner organizations, eliminating the need to email updated attachments back and forth;
  • Safely store your work where it’s not vulnerable to a damaged or left-behind laptop;
  • Edit and access online, from anywhere, at any time.

The ability to share and collaborate in real-time came in handy during the Joplin tornado when many volunteers were required to process and track the other volunteers showing up to work. See how AmeriCorps used the application:

Using Google Docs is as easy as using Microsoft Word, however, there are a few differences to get used to. Here is a tutorial created by Anson Alexander that provides a good basic overview. It is a worth watching the entire thing, even if you already are a Google Docs user.

Your Turn



Module 13: Using Twitter to Connect to Other Professionals


Objective: To understand how Twitter (and to some extent other social media) can be used to connect to other professionals in your field that live in your county, state, or in the broader US.

Social media is often only discussed from the point of view of how to reach the public with emergency preparedness, response and recovery information. It is true that the tools are well suited for community outreach, but what is missing from that conversation is how great these tools are for reaching other professionals responsible for public health and safety.


Conversations about your profession are happening on Twitter all day, everyday. Public health professionals often tag their tweets with hashtag (#) #PublicHealth. Law Enforcement personnel often use #LESM (law enforcement social media).

For emergency managers, the active tag is #SMEM, or social media and emergency management. This tag was formed organically by practitioners who wanted a place to discuss rapid changes in emergency management caused by emerging social networking technology. One participant notes: “One strength of a hashtag based discussion is that it occurs continuously so people around the world can participate regardless of time zone.”

Why should you care? These conversations can turn into connections that provide access to information you might not otherwise see, and also allow you the opportunity to ask and answer questions. For instance, in one week you might see content that addresses these questions:

What information is available about vulnerable populations?

What new tools or software solutions are available?

What creative ideas are out there for National Preparedness Month?

Who posts content?

Firefighters, local emergency managers, PIOs, police captains, as well as luminaries, such as the director of social strategy for the American Red Cross, all participate on the #smem hashtag. Here is how a few of these folks appear in their personal profiles.

Bill Boyd

Fire chief, crisis communicator, planner…

Mike Parker

PIO, Sheriff’s HQ -Newsroom @lasd_news Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept- Engaging, not endorsing thru social media, Los Angeles County, California.

Wendy Harman

 Director of Social Strategy for American Red Cross, but you can blame me for these tweets.

Twitter Chats

It is likely emergency response personnel and/or interested public information officers might not have the time to watch the tag very often. This is why the concept of a coordinated scheduled weekly chat was proposed (Fridays 12:30-1:30 EST) using the tag #smemchat.  The very first chat, which occured in January 2011, was quite fun for all involved since the director of FEMA, Craig Fugate, spontaneously posed a question to the group: “Branding issues and use of other hashtags, is there a need for the EM community to have a common way to share info?” This prompted a long (and ongoing) discussion about hashtag use during disasters–but that’s another story!

Administrator Fugate’s participation does, however, illustrate how the chats have broken down walls for federal officials to interact with locals on an ongoing basis. Due to this regular participation from feds, there is a misperception that the chat and the tag were created by FEMA, but both were started by people acting outside of their official capacities only with the interest of moving the conversation about social media further down the road. That is partly why it has been so successful. Below, one EM describes the experience:

“The SMEMchat has provided the ability to bring together many silos of excellence and experience. Meeting together unifies our profession geographically without having to be a formal conference. SMEMchat is a 24 hour 7 days a week virtual conference/thinktank of mindshare. I have taken many great comments, needs, recommendations and hopefully provided many ideas, answers and innovation during the our weekly chats.” -Pascal Schuback, EM Seattle

How does this work?

This is the absolute best part, in order to participate all that is required is literally adding the #smem tag to something you tweet, or the tag #smemchat on Fridays at 1230. You can simply watch what is being said, without posting anything, by entering #smem into the search box at the top of your twitter page–or into one of the columns, if you are using Tweetdeck.

Be mindful, however, that anything you post with the tag  #smem will reach other professionals, NOT your hometown community members. For instance:

DON’T say

“Weather warning for Springfield, MA. Be prepared! #smem”

Someone might send you a message like this:

DO say

 “Read this great article ( on how to better communicate emergency preparedness info with non-English speaking members of your community. #smem”

Learning the language and the culture of twitter does take a little time, I won’t lie. But there’s no better place to start than with the very supportive group you can find on the #smem tag.

One more thing…for this project, and potentially for use in the future by the emergency management community in Western Massachusetts, we have started using the tag #WMASMEM, which stands for Western Mass Social Media and Emergency Management. Take the plunge, share an idea there, or two.

Your Turn

Module 12: Third Party Twitter Clients: Tweetdeck and Hootsuite


Objective: To understand what applications are available to use Twitter more effectively.

There are multiple daily tasks associated with using Twitter, and frankly, the Twitter user interface can be quite limiting–for instance, users can only view one search term at a time. During a crisis, this problem becomes even more acute. Your organizaton will want to view several searches at once, such as: #WMAdonations, or #WesternMA, or #MAwx (Massachusetts weather). You will also want to keep an eye on messages and questions people are directing to your organization. Just last week an article about the disaster in the Phillipines titled “Twitter Changes Landscape in Disaster Response” illustrates this point:

During the recent floods, hashtags were used by netizens [citizens on the net] to mark tweets on people needing either rescue or relief goods: #rescuePH and #reliefPH. These were adopted by the government to help them coordinate efforts on the ground.

The hashtags were “immensely helpful,” said Quezon, in informing the authorities on where to go, and to help verify which cases were real and which were only rumors.

“First of all, [the hashtags] come from the people themselves. One of the most frustrating things in the past was [finding out] what was government doing. We never quite knew what was happening.”

Below is an actual tweet from the #reliefPH stream.

Image representing TweetDeck as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

So the question becomes, how can we meet all of these search requirements? Tweetdeck and HootSuite are desktop applications that can help with this, they have the added benefit of allowing you to use Twitter and Facebook in one application. When mentioning this software people often get a very confused look on their face– the names are kind of funny; however, the tools provide some serious capabilities. FEMA, for example, uses Tweetdeck exclusively to monitor Twitter. The application your organization chooses is completely based on preference, however, there are advantages and disadvantages with each one, read this comparison here: TweetDeck Vs. HootSuite. The biggest advantage to Tweetdeck is that it is free. Hootesuite, has a free version, however, for $10/month, they add quite a few more capabilities. The $10 version is used by Fairfax County, Virginia Office of Emergency Management. Both applications can be accessed on mobile devices.

What will they help you do?

  •  Manage multiple social profiles
    • Your Facebook page, Multiple Twitter accounts (Hootesuite even adds LinkedIn, Google +, and WordPress blogs to the list)
  •  Schedule messages and tweets
  • Track mentions: Who is asking you questions?
  • Archive content (Hootsuite $10.00/month version)

There are many tutorials on the web about how to use these applications. Here is a good one by VikiTech, with screen captures on how to download and start using Tweetdeck. Hootsuite itself has a great “Resource Page.” If your organization needs a more robust version, Hootsuite also has an “Enterprise” level. This is something hospitals and Universities might be interested in. The enterprise version has an interesting “teams” feature, which allows administrators to delegate tweets to specific staff members and keep track their activity including who has answered mentions, and monitor how questions are being dealt with, etc See HootSuite Team Member Quick Start Guide.

The best way to understand the applications, however,  is view them in action. Below we have embedded two videos, the first one is Tweetdeck by eBootCamp, and the second one is about Hootsuite by Scott Rounds.

Before you download or sign up for either tool check with your IT department and also make sure you have the ability to sign the Terms of Service for you organization; if you do not, you will need to get permission from whomever does.

Your Turn

Module 11: Twitter Basics


Objective: To gain an understanding of how to set up an account on Twitter and the site’s basic functions.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter defined:

Twitter is a real-time information sharing network that allows users to send short messages (140 characters or less) known as tweets, that will immediately be distributed to their followers.  People can view tweets without having a Twitter account. Note: People can view your tweets even if they do NOT follow you by searching for key words you have used in your text or your user name (which is how I saw the tweets from my daughter after she blocked me on twitter–but that is another story).

The messages on Twitter can be aggregated for viewing based on key terms, symbols or words. Twitter users can only post 140 characters but a surprising amount of information can be contained in that short amount of space. Other facts:

  • People are not “friends” but are “followers”–the relationship does not have to be reciprocal.
  • Messages can be submitted directly from the microblog site like, through text messages, mobile websites or through a microblog management tool such as Tweetdeck.

TweetDeck: a social media dashboard that allows users to connect their Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts. Users can create columns and groups that will allow them to save and organize searches, arrange their friends and followers to make them easier to follow, and schedule and post updates to their social media platforms.

Try this now

In order to view twitter, even without an account, try this exercise. Open a new window and go to!/search-home. Copy and paste this into the search bar:  #westernma
What did you see? When I search the term Western Massachusetts with the pound sign in front (called a hashtag) it is easy to find information about anything people are talking about in Western Massachusetts, as long as they include that term. A hashtag always precedes a term in a tweet to allow that subject to be more searchable. When searching #westernMA I found people posting content about the weather, local events, politicians (no comment), and more. Tweets posted on that hashtag reach about 21,000 people a day. See the statistics here on the service called TweetReach.

Here is one tweet I found. The content of this tweet is “live.” Click on the hyperlink and it will take you to the full story.

Pros and Challenges of using Twitter


  • Site works well on cell phones and other mobile devices, making it easy for your agency to deliver content to people who are not in front of a computer without having to build a site specifically for mobile devices.
  • The tools can be used to easily share content any organization needs to disseminate: announcements, news, special events like holiday hours, updated resources, reminders, instructions, or to share answers to frequent questions, either by including full text or a hyperlink.
  • News organizations monitor Twitter after a crisis.
  • The content on Twitter is highly searchable and can be easily sorted.
  • Since the tool is text and not voice based, it is popular with the younger deaf community and therefore makes it easier to reach this population with critical information.
  • This service also can be used for issuing directions or warnings during emergencies and is increasingly being used for this purpose.


  • There are a smaller number of subscribers to this format than others.
  • Being engaged on this platform can be time consuming for staff, especially if they want to learn the “language” of the platform.

Other Challenges: 

1. Security (how to mitigate concerns)

  • Staff should understand that if a tweet or post contains a link, they need to know where it came from before clicking on it.
  •  Links should be checked, especially those that have been shortened, before retweeting or reposting them.
  • Use a strong password and delete passwords for employees that leave their social media position.

2. Records Retention

There are many services that can be utilized in order to ensure that the conversations that you have on social networks (particularly information that is not publicly available on any other platform)  are archived.

  • Email: Twitter messages and exchanges can be delivered to an agency e-mail account; the emails can be tagged and saved for future reference.
  • Automated Service: There are automated services for records retention. Ask your IT personnel for assistance, but see tools like “Hootsuite Archives” or as example Some of these services have fees.

3. Computer Access and Processing Speed

  • The IT department will need to make sure that those assigned to use social networks have access to them on their desktop computers and mobile devices.

How to Get an Account

The International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends using this checklist when setting up an agency account:

  • Create your user name
  • Set a strong password
  • Insert a profile image (such as a logo—you could also use the head of the agency’s actual picture—this trend has become popular recently)
  • Enter the name of your agency
  • Enter the location of your agency
  • Enter your agency’s Web site address
  • Create a bio for your agency (you have 160 characters)
  • Enter a contact e-mail address
  • Set the background color or image
  • Register a mobile device
  • Place a link, badge, or widget for your Twitter account on your agency’s Web site—DONT FORGET THIS STEP!

If you do not know what Twitter is or how to sign up, take 3 minutes to view this video.

Your Turn