Geo-Located Social Media: Disaster Exercises & Training with Geo-located Social Media

map marker on smart phone

The idea of realistic web-based social simulation for crisis training and exercises was a pipe dream just a few years ago until Nusura, Inc. created SimulationDeck. It wasn’t an easy road but today local, state and federal agencies across the country as well as the US Military use SimulationDeck to simulate social media, social mapping, traditional media and photo/video sharing sites for training and exercises.

We came up with the idea of SimulationDeck after spending years responding to major disasters with FEMA. We also worked countless tabletops, functional and full-scale exercises. What we realized was that there was a disturbing reality gap between even the most robust exercise and a real world event. We designed SimulationDeck to close that gap.

At that time, many people couldn’t care less about social media. “No operational value. Just chatter about what people had for breakfast,” someone once told me.

Fast-forward a couple years. Social media in emergency management is now recognized as a critical component of emergency preparedness, response and recovery, which is why SimulationDeck is enjoying explosive growth. Everyone gets it now: social media has tremendous operational value during a crisis. And with some recent developments in leveraging geo-location data associated with social posts, that value is increasing dramatically.

Early in the development of SimulationDeck we had a crazy idea. What if our simulated social media posts in SimulationDeck included geotags so they could be plotted on a map? We’d call it GeoDeck. This was before any of us had heard of Geofeedia or the other real world tools that are catching steam today.

Geofeedia allows users to search real-time social media by location. This means emergency responders have faster and more accurate situational awareness during emergencies. Even though leveraging location-based social media is still relatively new in emergency response circles, we believe it’s the future of social media for emergency management.

“Having on-the-ground, real-time information from eyewitnesses provides an unprecedented layer of information that can support the emergency manager’s decision making process,” wrote Patrice Cloutier, a Canadian civil servant and writer specializing in the use of social media in emergencies in a June 2014 guest blog for GeoFeedia titled, “Social Media Monitoring for Emergency Management: Situational Awareness & Resource Allocation During a Crisis.”

Mobile and wearable-tech are also making it easier and more commonplace to capture and share what’s happening around us, increasingly adding to the vast amount of geo-located social media and geo-data to be used to improve crisis response, and recovery.

So in the coming months we’ll be doing our part to help bring this new technology to the forefront by providing clients the ability to train and exercise using geo-located data via SimulationDeck’s GeoDeck application. And of course we’ll also be working on the next crazy idea.

For more reading on the subject of geo-located data in emergency management also see:
- Using Twitter to measure earthquake impact in almost real time, by Reza Azdeh
- The 2 Goals of Social media for Law Enforcement: Monitor and Engage, by Bend Adelt

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