In any emergency situation, the primary imperative of the facility manager is to ensure the safety of the building and its occupants. Oftentimes, to accomplish this, you need to use whatever tools are available, no matter how unconventional they are. One tool that has shown itself to be nearly indispensable in crisis management situations is the plethora of social media platforms available on the Internet. As a mass communication tool, services such as Twitter are fast becoming mainstays of how many facilities communicate in emergencies.
Ubiquity of information
The most valuable resources in any emergency are information and open communication channels. Coincidentally, these things are the stock in trade in which the Internet deals. As more facilities recognize that the widespread communication potential of the Internet can be used to communicate essential information quickly, social media-based strategies are finding their way onto more crisis response plans.
According to Health Facilities Management, 40 percent of hospitals now make use of social media as part of their emergency contingency plans - a growth of 8 percent over figures from 2012. Data collected by Hospitals & Health Networks indicated that 95 percent of survey respondents listed mobile devices as their primary communication tool in times of crisis. The practice cut its teeth in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, when the media relations manager from Massachusetts General Hospital began monitoring Twitter to keep track of events and, more importantly, to dispel misinformation quickly so as to prevent the relief efforts from stumbling over rumors.
Partner with planning
Like any tool, social media as a communication method is only as effective as the process that guides its use. The fire hose of information that flows through social channels is a double-edged sword, because if not managed and filtered properly, it can be very easy to get lost in the deluge of sheer data.
To best prepare your facility for a potential emergency, contingency plans incorporating social media-based communication should be established, disseminated and practiced. Determine which platforms should be monitored in the event of a crisis, and who will be responsible for doing so - similar to buildings electing fire wardens to assist with evacuations during fire alarms. Understanding the strengths of various platforms is essential. Twitter is an ideal tool for quickly conveying bursts of information, such as checking in or indicating that an area has been cleared. Consider also establishing a Facebook group dedicated to emergency response so that tenants can check in after an evacuation - that way, keeping track of personnel in a chaotic situation is facilitated.