Social Media & Emergency Management

Recently I agreed to do a webinar on the connection between social media and emergency management.  I always knew there was linkage, but I was actually quite astounded at how deeply social media could, should and actually is embedded not only into the four formal phases of emergency management, but also in even the general “public safety” functions that our local governments perform.  There are hundreds of great examples available via Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and even some simple yet extremely powerful examples of how crowdsourcing mashups are helping the world recover from major events.  For example, check out this great ESRI mash-up that geo-tags citizen provided tweets, photos and videos to help extend the reach and reduce the response time of emergency responders in Christchurch, NZ.

Because of the great body of work on the topic, I am going to start a new blog category that deals exclusively with social media use in emergencies, public safety and emergency management. I intend to use it to share what I’ve already learned on the topic, highlight useful examples of its use and point you to even better resources that are more informed on the topic than I.

Desperate Times Call For…Lying?

In these tough economic times, it is inevitable that people get creative, looking for income.  Perhaps no where is that more evident than the cold calls and contacts from sales reps from technology companies.  I get dozens of generic emails every day from every tech vendor imaginable, desperately wanting me to invest money I don’t have into their newest products. Generally, I ignore them.  If I don’t already know about the company or have a relationship with them, chances are slim that I’ve got any extra capital lying around to spend these days.  Within this economy we are primarily in a hunker-down maintenance mode.

This week I received an innovative ploy that simultaneously amused and annoyed me.  The following arrived recently in my Inbox (names withheld to protect the guilty):

Bill:

Considering your responsibilities for XXXX and its employee’s, the following warrants your attention.

Over the past few months there’s been a significant spike in research from your employee’s researching XXX web conferencing solutions. Overall the research relates to the advancement of their ability to communicate, either internally or with customers. Being that communications is the backbone of success with any company, as well as the rise or fall of your expenses, I felt your attention was required.

Are you available next week for the two of us to discuss the above and architect the most comprehensive and collective approach to your communication methodologies?

Regards,

XXXX

My first thought was “Wow, why are we researching web conferencing solutions? ” We’ve got videoconferencing equipment less than two-years old and several contracts for on-demand services. Why would we possibly be looking to expand that in the current economic climate?  And thirdly, as our organization’s head geek, wouldn’t I need to approve (or at least be informed of) such research? I contacted my project management coordinator and asked him if he knew anything about this research project.  His response – “no, but I bet I got the same email you did.”  And there it was.  The bogus email ploy had grabbed me!  Check, please!

I quickly drafted a reply in kind:

Dear XXXX,

Considering your desperate hopes of landing a new client through veiled and bogus emails, the following warrants your attention.

Over the past few months there’s been a significant spike in spam emails I have received from slackers such as yourself who are too lazy or perhaps too unskilled to actually attract new clients through a worthy product or dare I say…a little bit of actual effort. Overall the emails indicate deficiency in your ability to communicate, either internally or with customers. Being that communications is the backbone of success with any company, as well as the rise or fall of your revenue, I felt your attention was required.

Alas I am not available next week for the two of us to discuss the above and architect the most comprehensive and collective approach to my communication methodologies. However, since I am connected to your boss on LinkedIn and I have contacted him to tell him how utterly disgusted I am with your tactics, I would imagine that a conversation with me is not at the top of your priority list at this time.

I hope you have a great day!

Love,

Bill

Okay, no, I didn’t really send it.  But I really, really wanted to!  I succumbed to professionalism and opted instead to post here.  Of course, for all I know, he’s actually a lurker here on the blog. If so, welcome to my world XXXX! Please stay a while and contemplate how your lost customers regard your tactics!

What about you?  Anybody else out there ever fallen victim to a particularly devious sales ploy?

Lightfoot’s Ode to “The Mighty Fitz” Is A Primo School Project

Tomorrow marks the 35th anniversary of the date the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a massive storm on Lake Superior. 29 men died in the wreck, but exactly how and why it sank is still unknown, according to a recent article because: “The Fitzgerald’s remains lie in Canadian waters. Canadian law regards the wreck as a grave site and prohibits pleasure dives to it, and scientific dives require a legitimate forensic purpose and permission from the families.”

Although I am too young to remember the actual event, I grew up listening to Gordon Lightfoot‘s powerful tribute, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitgerald. Now as an adult, I’ve broadened my musical horizons but I still love that song. Contemporary favs and my guilty pleasures dominate my iPod, but there are also a few folk songs I remember from my childhood that bring some depth and longevity to the collection as well. My kids love this song and are always rapt when it comes up in the shuffle.

I always knew the song was rooted in history, but it was only recently, when my kids showed interest, that I really began to fully appreciate the poetry and imagery of Lightfoot’s lyrics:

Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

Today I read an article about the enduring legacy of the ship. The details of its wreck and the lasting effects it has had decades later made me realize that not only was Lightfoot’s song a powerful and effective interpretation, it was also a very credible source of facts regarding the event.

And that got me to thinking about what a tremendous opportunity the song presents as a school project. This could be unit test fodder! The song touches on history, geography, geology, meteorology, communications, comprehension, creative writing, etc. Seems like a great idea for a group project to present a “case study” of the material content of the song.

Has anybody done this already? What other songs from recent decades do you think accurately capture a moment in time that might not get top billing in the history books?

If you want to know more about the ship and the wreck, check out the SS Edmund Fitzgerald Online.