With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter growing every day, Public Safety Agencies are faced with a challenge to reach out to the communities they serve through new tools and technologies. Providing accurate and consistent information is important when trying to maintain a good relationship with the community. A Social Media presence can be beneficial for all involved.
How can different types of agencies use Social Media to help distribute information?
- Police Department Communications Centers
- Report Road Closures
- Issue AMBER alerts or missing persons reports
- Distribute suspect information on active investigations
- Distribute safety information for ongoing incidents such as shots fired
- Announce public interest stories such as department promotions
- Fire Department and EMS Communications Centers
- Distribute Fire Safety Information
- Announce public interest stores such as department promotions
- Announce community member recognition for life saving actions
- Report on active fire related incidents
- Emergency Management Agencies
- Provide preparedness resources and information
- Announce weather alerts
- Stand Alone or Consolidated 9-1-1 Communications Centers
- Distribute information on the proper use of 9-1-1
- Announce community interest activities such as board meetings
Depending on the size of the agency, information may be prepared and delivered by one person or several. Agencies should consider the type of information that they want to share and who will make the final decision. If the agency has a Public Information Officer, they should be involved in the decision making process.
Liability is also a factor as agencies develop a social media presence. A user may attempt to report an emergency through the agencies page instead of dialing the appropriate number for service. If this occurs, it’s unlikely it will be noticed immediately. Agencies should make it clear on their page that this is not a forum to report emergencies and the best avenue is to dial 9-1-1.
As with all aspects of Public Safety Communications, customer service is critical. A few things to consider while maintaining good customer service on a social site:
- Make sure all postings are courteous and professional
- Don’t respond to negative remarks out of anger, instead, guide the user to the appropriate contact person to report any issues they may have with the agency
- Don’t promote a political agenda, remain neutral and focused on public safety
- Don’t be afraid to block users who are abusive or inappropriate to the agency or other users
- Be consistent with updates in content and time, if you are not engaged then the site fails to be a good tool for your agency
- Always check grammar and spelling
Posting pictures or other media can help make a site more dynamic, but there are things you should consider before doing so:
- Do you own, or have permission to post the media?
- Obtain permission, or waivers from employees before posting their image
- Is the media appropriate?
- Does the media fit in with the objectives you want to achieve by having a social media presence?
Public safety agencies should be prepared to craft solid policies and procedures on what will be shared, how it will be shared, and who will be responsible for overall maintenance of the program. As an added measure, agencies should consider having their legal department or agency attorney review these policies and provide guidance.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.