Social Log Jam?

social-overload-word-cloud-370x229It’s been encouraging seeing so many public safety agencies enter the Social Media world. I enjoy reading about some departments promotions, public education events, and important information regarding community safety, but I am becoming glossy eyed and at times, complacent. Information Overload from public safety agencies is becoming a real concern for me, and I think it should be a real concern for communities that are turning to those outlets expecting to get critical information during a disaster or high profile incident.

Informational posts are fine, but when every traffic accident that occurs in a metropolitan location is posted to Twitter or Facebook, how does the follower differentiate between those FYI’s and priority incidents. Yes, Twitter has launched Twitter Alerts, but agencies need a certain level of account security and accountability to launch this feature. They also need to educate the public on what they will receive when an alert is sent.

Informational posts may be needed in some context. Transportation may be improved by notifying the masses that XY street is closed due to a 3 vehicle accident, but at what cost is this information provided. If the follower never sees the tweet about an active shooter at XZ School, they miss a critical piece of information that may be directed related to their life.

Just a few of my opinions (and they are mine, everyone has them) on using the big 3 Social Media Outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) in public safety.

1. Do not cross post. Each platform is suited for certain information or content format. Set a priority for each platform and stick to it as much as possible. Disconnect the automatic features that allow posting to all three sites and manage them manually. This feature is great for businesses selling products, but in public safety, it’s about information, not selling.

2. Focus on how to best serve the community with a priority on high level incidents, immediate safety over convenience, and avoiding information overload.

3. Taylor your content to your community and your agency for the most part. It’s great to share others content if it’s relevant, but try to build content that is targeted to your community in order to make it interesting to them.

4. Above all, reinforce to your followers that Social Media is not an emergency reporting system. Most sites are not monitored 24/7 and sometimes they are managed by administrative personnel that have no emergency incident training.

Social Media is a tool, just like your Computer Aided Dispatch console, but it can’t really act as an extension of that console, nor should it.

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.


Historically Speaking

Historically, technology has been known to advance at rates that keep pace with the needs of consumers and businesses at the same time. If you look deeply at the last twenty years, the explosion of growth in internet access and mobile technology has totally changed how things used to get done. Back in the 80’s, I remember 13175576-largehaving a console television, three television channels, and no access to cable. As the needs of the consumer expanded, cable companies began moving into remote areas and in the mid 90’s, our area finally had access to all of the, hmmm, wonderful? programming that was available in the more urban settings. This is how things used to evolve. What drives the daily expansion of technology today?


In the 9-1-1 Industry, any time during the 1990’s was a time of innovation. The need to receive location data from the caller was important and before long, it became the norm. Next came cell phone technology and the need to track locations via the handset to provide services that meet the expectations of the user. Today, the technology is advancing so rapidly, most in the industry can’t keep track. The 9-1-1 industry is no longer setting the standard, it’s along for the ride. CAD companies, telephony developers, and mapping software designers are building the next generation of tech that will drive the future, at least for the time being. Included in this rapid advancement is the expectation of text to 9-1-1, but what else is creeping. Systems are being designed to receive video calls, image transfers, and who knows, direct emergency contact from social media may not be far behind.

I don’t oppose any advancements, but I do question who is deciding to set the expectations? Are we at a point where we need video to 9-1-1? Can we effectively train personnel to answer social media contact? Where will the industry draw a line and say we are effective and all expectations cannot be met, no matter how far the tech moves forward, mainly due to the involvement of human operators?

It’s time for the industry to take a breath, develop a strategic plan for the future, and go back to guiding the technology companies, not letting them guide us.

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.

National Suicide Prevention Month!!!

September is National Suicide Prevention Month!!!! Take a moment to think about supporting the efforts of those working with at risk populations, prevention hotlines, and mental health professionals that are working daily to prevent suicide.suicide_speak_reach

I support The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization focusing on LGBTQ youth, but there are many great organizations out there. If nothing else, read one article about suicide prevention and warning signs.

Did you know?

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
  • LGBT youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
  • Suicide attempts by LGBT youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.
  • Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.
  • LGBT youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.
  • Suicide attempts are nearly two times higher among Black and Hispanic youth than White youth.
  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.


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.

Google Glass and Public Safety, a Good Fit?

Interesting article about Google Glass and it’s possible use in Public Safety. Is it adding a layer of protection or causing interference with someone doing their job?

GoogleGlass_wiki (1)

I like to think it has potential as a tool, if used properly, to assist emergency workers on the way to, and on scene of an incident.


Click on the picture of the guy with the nifty Google Glass to read the article





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.

Developing the Future Leaders? Start Now

Public safety communications agencies have been struggling with creating an environment that signifies the importance of the job that we do on Leadership Road Signa daily basis. This has been going on for years, with a push to highlight the professional nature of the industry and positions. Unfortunately, the attempts have to reach the front lines to be effective. Many front line dispatcher and call takers do take their profession seriously, and attempt daily to raise the level of the work and learn about industry happenings and future technologies, but some just don’t buy into the rhetoric and see only a paycheck. Is this the fault of the employee or a disconnect in the industry? I think a little of both but the industry could do better.

Organizations such as the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and the National Emergency Number Association offer courses to further the immediate needs of call centers, with offerings for communicators in topics such as active shooter, or stress management, but neither does a great job of preparing the front line communicators for a career in full. Management type courses are often restricted to management personnel and require proof of current management status. The adage that you can’t get ahead if you haven’t already been ahead, rings fairly true at times.

Is there a way to offer development type courses to front line personnel who are interested in moving up in the industry? Is there a mechanism to identify those in front line positions that are involved but often disregarded due to the current position they hold? It starts with the idea that everyone has a voice and ideas come from the most unlikely of places.

In order to prepare for the future leadership needs in Public Safety Communications, agencies and industry organizations need to become mentors to those who with to advance, share the knowledge that is needed to act as management personnel with anyone who is interested, and invest time and money into broadening the potential of employees. For example, if today, your communications center became wide open in the area of management due to a mass exodus of leadership, would you staff the open positions with qualified personnel in your communications center or would you look to the outside for a fresh approach? If you have adequately informed personnel available that you have developed in an appropriate manner, you could have many options for promoting from within. Is this always the best case scenario? No, but it is an option, and it’s only available to you if you are vigilant about providing development type resources. Going to the outside world for staffing can be a great way to build a team, but the time it takes to bring an outsider up to speed on the policies, procedures, and equipment usage may have been better spent investing in the future of your current team.

I have heard the argument that promoting from within creates a difficult environment for the person promoted, but having gone through this process in the past, I can testify that moving from one position to a higher one is not difficult if everyone understands that the conditions of the job has changed for the person promoted. They no longer are only responsible for their actions, they have responsibility for everyone that reports to them, so the team dynamic is altered and the work continues.

Moral of the story: Invest in your agencies future now, because tomorrow may be too late.

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.

Social Media for Public Safety Tip #3

How many hands can actually fit into one cookie jar?

I don’t know the answer to that question, though I do know that even one hand can break up all the cookies.

How many people can run your social media program for your public safety agency?


That may be easier to answer than the cookie jar, but it’s still not a perfect science. You have to start by asking how often you are going to interact with your followers and how quickly you want posts or comments responded to.

For some agencies, one person can handle all aspects of the social media program. With clear information that the page is not used for emergency communication and that the page isn’t monitored 24/7, one person working 40 hours per week can handle the content creation and page management for a small to mid size agency. The perfect scenario would be for this person to be involved in public information or media relations, that way they understand the limitations of content and the importance of a consistent message.

For larger agencies, or those who want to make sure they respond in an appropriate time frame, they may use several people to monitor and post. This creates the possibility of inconsistencies in information and even how followers are managed. If this is the case, it’s vital to have a clear social media plan that is updated on a regular basis defining who is responsible for creating content, engaging users, and identifying types of information that can be shared.

Too many administrators can kill the effectiveness of social media.

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.

Social Media for Public Safety Tip #2

social-media-billboardPage management is always critical for those using social media for branding and marketing purposes, and it takes on the same type of urgency in public safety. While Public Safety Agencies aren’t selling a product or trying to increase followers, managing the page is important to the customer service aspect of our industry.

What do I mean by page management?

First, I am using “page” in an interchangeable format. Whatever platform you are using, you must manage not only the content that you are creating and/or sharing (see tip # 1) but you must make sure that the page is maintained so that conversations don’t get out of hand or become inappropriate.

1. Remove inappropriate or vulgar comments as soon as you see them and send a warning to the user. Keep a list of those who are using inappropriate or vulgar language and when they repeat, block them. It’s your reputation as an agency that is on the line, not the one user causing the problem.

2. Respond to complaints or questions in a timely manner. You may not be able to answer the question directly, but you can provide contact information for someone who can. If it is a complaint, never address it on your page other than to provide the contact information for someone that can help. Starting a Twitter or Facebook argument is not good for your agency.

3. Remember #2? Never, ever delete a complaint or negative comment about your agency unless it is being disruptive, causing arguments, or contains vulgar or inappropriate language. Simply deleting a complaint does nothing to solve a problem and if you provide the contact details, you have given them an avenue for resolving their issue.

4. Use your page to provide information, not to lobby for a political agenda or comment on social matters. As an agency, you are providing a service for all of your area, let the politicians and news media pontificate, while you enhance your image as an impartial agency with safety of the community in mind.

Manage your page well and your followers will appreciate it and your agency will be seen as a professional organization that knows how to act in public.

Upcoming Posts: Social Media for Public Safety Tip #3: How many hands should be in the cookie jar?

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.

Social Media Tip #1 for Public Safety


Public Safety agencies use social media for many objectives, but one of the most pressing is the quick release of emergency information. Whether posting a tornado warning, evacuation orders, or a crime in progress, always ask your followers to share the post.

The goal is to get the important information to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time, so your followers will want to help.

Agencies should also consider sharing content created by sister agencies. Especially in a large scale incident, re-posting information from other agencies can help spread the word faster and show the public that agencies can work together for their safety. Sharing content from other agencies should never drown out your own message or priorities, but if done right, your agency will gain the trust of your followers and the public safety community in your area.

Last but not least, share content that is beneficial to your followers. You are not a business, so you are not marketing a product or even a service. You should focus your content on your agencies purpose and scope. If you are a Fire Department, sharing critical information such as fire safety tips and severe weather awareness tips would be great, but don’t get into the promotion game and post ads for fire alarm monitoring systems or weather radios, this could hurt your credibility very fast.

Sharing information is the point of social media, for public safety, it should be an extension of our primary goals of saving lives and protecting the property of the people that we serve, not something that doesn’t resemble your primary mission.

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.

Are your expectations clear as mud?

In Public Safety Communications, training takes many forms; classroom, one on one, individual effort, etc. If you asked your front line employees, how would they rate the clarity of the expectations that you have set? expectations

F-Standard Operating Guidelines are in place but they haven’t been updated since the Clinton Administration. You can’t tell if that is the letter A or B due to the dust on the binder.

D-Guidelines are in place and partially updated, but never reviewed unless your communications center hits the news. No training is in place to review guidelines periodically.

C-Guidelines are reviewed, and discussed, but updates mainly include changes that are absolutely necessary without an overview of the entire process. Guidelines are handed out to be seen only in an “out of the norm” incident.

B-Guidelines are usable but other documents hold important information on call processes or dispatching procedures. Training is provided for guidelines if requested by the employee.

A-Guidelines are a living, breathing document, updated frequently, reviewed constantly, improved and clarified. All personnel are trained on guidelines as they are updated and allowed to question new procedures to adequately understand the information.

Does your agency need to define your expectations more clearly?


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.