Advice from a Seasoned Incident Commander
When it comes to using social media, everyone seems to have an opinion as to how, where, when and what to post. Thankfully an experienced incident commander has written up some best practices for using social media in the field based on real-world experience.
Bill Boyd is a retired fire chief from Washington who served as an incident commander for the Northwest Incident Management Team. His recent article for FireRescue magazine provides an excellent outline for getting started with using Twitter and other social media for emergency management.
Boyd begins by outlining a hypothetical emergency situation in which the incident commander feels that everything is under control while at the same time the public is in a panic due to lack of communication and misinformation. He then goes on to explain how incident commanders can take advantage of the powerful social media communication channels to calm and inform the public.
Boyd recommends that incident commanders keep an open mind toward using social media and be willing to invest the time to become familiar with how the platforms work.
Highlights from his tips on getting started with Twitter include:
- Select a short username
- Find and follow local “power users,” people and agencies with a large number of followers and who are frequently “retweeted.”
- Follow other local, state and federal emergency response Twitter accounts, and retweet their stuff.
- Don’t tweet on behalf of your agency unless you have permission. If in doubt, check with your agency legal department or administration.
- Use a hashtag with your tweets. For example, if you tweet about fire tactics, consider adding #firetactics or #fire #tactics in the tweet.
- Tweet frequently, at the very least a few times a week or daily if you can.
This article is a worthwhile read for anyone wary of using social media for emergency management. The public increasingly turns to social media for news and communication and organizations of all kinds need to be a part of the conversation.
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