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.

Presenting a Webinar?

webinarDo you ever have the need to present a webinar? No matter what field you work in, the opportunity may arise for you to transfer information that you know, and others need to know. The following recording is of a webinar that I recently presented and helps to sort through designing your webinar based on the tools available and the goals that you may want to achieve.

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.

The Social Media Puzzle for Public Safety Communications

With social media sites like Facebofollow-these-8-simple-rules-of-social-media-de59448c2dok 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
    • Recruiting
  • 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
    • Recruiting
  • Emergency Management Agencies
    • Provide preparedness resources and information
    • Announce weather alerts
    • Recruiting
  • 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
    • Recruiting

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.