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:
- 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.
- Select “More”
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- How to attach a Gmail to an Excel spreadsheet (richardwblog.wordpress.com)
- About Gmail
- Top 10 reasons to use Gmail
- Gmail Help: 9 Email Basics Everyone Should Know
- Google’s new login tool makes anyone with multiple accounts squeal (venturebeat.com)