Disaster Zone

Egypt, Social Media and Lessons for Emergency Management

The social turmoil in Egypt provides some good insights that emergency managers can use.

by Eric Holdeman / January 30, 2011

First Tunisia and now Egypt is being torn by revolution and social unrest.  There are some common denominators between the two that are leading other national leaders to be shaking in their boots.  Authoritarian rule, lack of a free press, an educated population, a large proportion of the population being under the age of 30--and social media.

 

Is social media causing the revolutions to happen or is it just an enabling factor?  Clearly it is the means by which people are coming together for a common purpose.  In social media there is the term Flash Mob which was done more for fun than for political purpose.  Today I'd say the instructions for forming and storming are definitely for political purposes--but the concept is the same.

 

As I write this I'm following a stream of Twitter Posts with the hash tag #Egypt that are coming at a dizzying pace.  Check it out if you want to see the level of activity that will happen following a disaster as people share information and seek information. 

 

When the Egyptian government shut down the Internet several days ago there were still some creative people getting their messages out.  When I hear emergency managers say we can't be dependent on electronics and social media when disaster strikes I say check out what happens when a country turns off the power entirely and still communications continued to happen.  People will find a way to communicate. 

 

People galvanized for a single purpose can do great things.  They can topple dictators, fill sandbags, evacuate a city, help one another survive.  I'll be writing more about FEMA's "Whole Community" (this is not a link to FEMA) approach to disasters.  Social media will need to be a major factor in how that effort is brought to bear, before, during and after a disaster.

 

If you don't have a personal Twitter account, get one!  Get started so you begin to understand the dialog and the tool for when the revolution in emergency management comes to your town.