|16-005: Inquiries during an emergency
|Agency: Irfan Khan and NBCLA
||Topic(s): Twitter engagement & Crisis
After several Public Information Table Top Exercises and Social Media Workshops, many attendees have experienced reporters who have purposely bypassed officials for information and have directly contacted affected parties involved.
Social media has shortened the timeline for any news reporters – basically cutting INTO the chase. This can be exemplified by NBCLA Reporter Daniella Guzman’s reply on Twitter to Irfan Khan’s tweet he posted during an active shooter situation on UCLA’s campus in June 2016.
As you can tell by Irfan’s Tweet, raw parental emotion to protect his child who was hiding in a bathroom (from the shooter) is palpable. But what can Public Information Officers (PIOs) do about this? Not much since this social media platform lends itself to fairly open dialog for any ongoing emerging situations. Now, you could say that if the parent has enough time to tweet, that he/she has the right mindset to respond to reporters. However, when faced with a dire situation and the possible loss or death of an immediately family member – most people do not respond well.
It is possible to deflect random victim/survivor inquiry attempts. PIOs could proactively monitor the common accounts or hashtags that emerge during the incident. In this situation, “#UCLA” was a common term that was used to associate tweets. Simply setting up a column in TweetDeck or HootSuite could provide another monitoring point for your Joint Information Center on redirecting inquiries. Once vetted, operations and tactics could use this information to increase Situational Awareness and Common Operating Picture (SA/COP).
For Irfan’s family, I am glad to report that Irfan’s daughter was found safe.
Three important tips to consider as soon as something kicks off:
- When an emergency occurs, setup a column in TweetDeck or HootSuite for the primary agency and mentions.
- Monitor common hashtags to help steer questions/inquiries into the Joint Information Center with trusted sources who can provide correct vetted information.
- People under duress may not respond well to random inquiries.
On Twitter, your public safety presence is important because you can help proliferate good sources of information by redirecting to official trusted sources.
Time is short, so Tweet good stuff!