First and foremost, do not even attempt to set up a disaster recovery site unless you are fully prepared to devote yourself 24/7 to the effort. Secondly, do not undertake this project unless you have reliable help. Social Media in a major disaster should not be taken on by a single individual and it is not a 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday task (these sites do not manage themselves). Collectively our 5 person core team was experienced in professional social media management, marketing, PR, crisis intervention, IT, journalism, copywriting, construction, logistics, nursing, and meteorology, no one person could have covered all of this effectively. As soon as it was possible, admins from utility companies, city officials, et al. were added. Social Media for disaster recovery required many hands, with one or two dedicated “supervisors”. Do not undertake a project of this scope unless you are absolutely certain you can follow through as long as it takes. Chances are, you will be signing on to do this for several months at the very least. It is impossible to know at the beginning of a disaster, the scope of the situation.
If you don’t have what you need to run a site, DON’T START ONE. JTI was created on an iPhone and largely run using an HP mini. Do not ask your community for your supplies. If you need something you don’t have to function, tap a volunteer that has the needed equipment and move on. Avoid cluttering the disaster relief effort with you own needs.
Our admins were entirely volunteer. Self-promotion was strictly prohibited. We endorsed no specific church, charity, organization or entity. We encouraged JTI community members to “give of your time, talents, energy, and monetary donations to the group of your choice”. Our mission was to be a clearing house for information, aid communication, and ‘connect the dots’ between needs and resources, not to champion any specific organization. JTI did not have any affiliations, rarely censored community posts, was un-biased, and encouraged honest dialogue within the community. We found that faith based organizations, groups and individuals were the lifeblood of the JTI community and the recovery efforts, we linked up and cooperated with, and followed as many government agencies and entities as were available but in no way relied on them. Much help with the Joplin effort came from outside the region, including help with the JTI page. Through the internet social media disaster volunteers can do some tasks effectively from hundreds of miles away.
We believe that in order for a page to be successful, it must be participated in by all organizations working towards disaster recovery, with one source that is dedicated to the disaster, not only is it easier to find, it is unbiased and gains user trust. This source has no other purpose than to be a “go between” from individuals (fans, followers) to organizations, this should be managed by someone that has no other purpose. No other sources for this exist, as media outlets are commercial, and all other groups are heavily tasked during this time. There will be no calls for monetary donations to specific organizations (although general calls for donations with a list of trusted groups included in the post are acceptable and encouraged). All organizations will be treated equally, they are all part of a larger system to be treated as a whole. This page must be citizen/ volunteer run. Although many of the guidelines provided are helpful when running any page focusing on disaster relief and recovery.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because you will.
- Save contact info for everyone however it works for you. It’s best to have at least 2 copies.
- Always refer to an official source. Find multiple Facebook page administrators from multiple agencies (We had around 30 at our peak).Have admins claim o.wnership of their posts with an initial, first name, or group identifier.
- Create a Facebook Group and include all page administrators. This creates a dialogue between your volunteers. Monitor all admin posts for accuracy and scandal. If correction of an admin is necessary do it via private message, or phone call.
- Man the page 24/7 until rescues are complete, basic needs are met, utilities and communication are restored. This will take approximately 96 hours. Tap night owls to man the page overnight…disasters don’t rest, neither will you.
- Remember to include who, what, when, where, how, and why in your posts and verify it all.
- Strive to do your best, but don’t be too concerned about grammar and punctuation, getting the information out there more important than getting it out perfectly.
- Watch the speed of your “timeline”, you may need to repost vital information frequently so it isn’t lost in the shuffle. Social Media Sites dedicated with disaster recovery attract all demographics including those totally unfamiliar with the use of social media, be patient.
- Check your ego at the door. Seriously. Not everyone will understand what you are doing or want to be part of it. Move on to someone that does.
- Never speak ill of other organizations, even when they deserve it.
- This is a crisis not a contest. Don’t be afraid to borrow from other groups and don’t be upset when you are borrowed from. Fan all pertinent pages, repost and share. Also, follow what fans are posting. Give shout outs to groups both official and unofficial that are on the ground operating and accomplishing something. Reach out to other groups to other groups and promote their pages if they seem legitimate. Ask them to promote yours. If you sense something fishy cut ties ASAP.
- Check everything offering help before posting it. Some groups will offer resources that are idiot-loops and a waste of time. If a person is on a cell phone with a dying battery at ground zero, minutes are crucial when seeking help.
- Use and encourage the use of common sense. Avoid hearsay and clear up rumors; address the BS head on. Squelch know rumors. Avoid sensationalism. Refer to those affected as survivors instead of victims. Be sensitive…would you want to read that 20 bodies bags were being sent to the apartment complex your loved one lives in? Delete/ban (if necessary) inflammatory remarks, spam, self promotion, sensationalism and false or unverifiable information. We chose to hide all pages promising a monetary donation for each new like, such as 50 cents or $1.00 per like. No flying fairies ie pictures of cats, cherubs ,teddy bears playing guitar etc. However heartwarming they may be they don’t contribute to recovery and waste vital space.
- Remember, you are a resource for those affected first, a resource for their families second, a resource for the surrounding area third . Everyone else is a possible resource.
Template for first ten posts:
- Official word of disaster occurrence.
- If searching for a loved one or if you think someone is searching for you, please register at safeandwell.org this is a valid, trusted source.
- First word of triage centers and shelters
- Evacuation details
- Ask for reports and photos. This is useful for organizations assessing the scope of the situation.
- Emergent needs from your community ie “there are limbs blocking main street and we can’t get to the triage center”.
- Volunteer status. Is the situation stable enough to allow volunteers. Volunteers are vital and can be of most help if they arrive prepared. Encourage them not to self deploy, instruct them to be self sufficient and make plans ie volunteer opportunities and lodging in advance. Work gloves, work clothes, masks, googles and other PPE often need to be supplied by the volunteer.
- Ask your community to share your link and your info so it can reach the largest number of people and do the most good. Let your community know that you are dependent on them to post, respond to needs.
- Disclaimer. We used “JTI endorses no particular church, charity or organization. We encourage you to give of your time, talents and money to the group of your choice as you are able”. Include your contact info and your intentions to be an information clearinghouse.
- List of needs:
Sample Chronological List after the Joplin Tornado
Rescue and Triage
Reuniting survivors with their loved ones
First aid supplies; Bandages, antiseptic, etc.
Water and Food (including infant formula, baby food, diabetic & celiac meals)
Feminine products, diapers, toilet paper, wet wipes and hand sanitizer paper towels and bleach
Clothing/Shoes (This is an immediate need only and tends to be met quickly)
Pet Shelters, pet food and supply distribution points
Tarps, tools and PPE
Storage containers, boxes, sharpies, duct tape & packing tape
Personal Hygiene, laundry facilities
Donation logistics and storage
Food lodging and transportation for disaster workers, non profit workers and volunteers
Mobile device charging and wifi locations
Once basic needs are met, utilities and communication are restored needs will change.
Generally basic infrastructure is well on its way to being restored within 96 hours.
TOOLS WE SUGGEST YOU USE:
- Create a Gmail account to be used to access the other sites you will create.
- Use google voice phone number for the page main contact number. DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL NUMBER.
- Twitter-use hashtags to your advantage, employ a crowdmap type service to track needs and supplies.
- Use google documents (these can be edited by anyone). The spreadsheets we used had shelters, distribution points, triage centers, information lines, as well as what was going on at each organization, representatives from each center could access and edit this list in real time.
- Use USAF blog flowchart or a similar source.
- Use geolocation as much as possible, include google places links in posts for new shelters and distribution centers.
- Use Wikis and other open source applications.
- Sign up for google alerts, use this to keep up to speed on what is happening via traditional news sources.
This publication was written by Rebecca and Genevieve Williams, the founders of Joplin Tornado Info, if you have questions or comments you can email the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org
This publication will be updated periodically. (3/4/12) Version 1.1