Let’s face it. Most emergency management professionals are more than 45 years old. From their perspective, they have far more important things to worry about in preparing to respond to a major emergency than silly things like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like. They and their Public Information Officers (PIOs) are very clear about what has to happen to communicate with the public in a major event–they got to get a press release to the media and hold a press conference. The media is their “partner.” Do that, and the job is mostly done–oh yeah, answer some questions along the way.
I’ve had this conversation recently too frequently to tell. It’s how those in emergency management think about this world. I’ve been trying to tell them they are wrong, the world has changed. But now I have some serious academic studies to back me up.
The University of Colorado at Boulder, with Dr. Leysia Palen leading the research, is becoming a center for study about disaster communication. I heard several references to Dr. Palen and the studies at this university at the Booz Allen conference in DC last November. This release from the university documents the shockingly fast move of the public to online communications and particularly social media during major events.
The world has changed. No sense sticking our heads in the sand.