Social media has taken a lot of hits in the last few years for spreading false information and dubious advice but the reality is that many people turn to social media sites for disaster information rather than traditional communications channels with a recent study finding 70% of Americans turn to social media for information during a disaster. Given these statistics does your organization have a plan for the use of Social Media In Emergency Management? Does your organization have a plan for engaging in social media during an emergency? How do you plan on getting your message out, do you have a plan for providing accurate, official information to combat false or misleading information? Have you considered the use of social media within your broader incident communications plan? Have you considered how you might monitor social media for information from the community and how that can be fed back into the incident command process?

In a blog post on the Disaster Zone Blog entitled “Provide Disaster Recovery Information Before the Disaster, How emergency managers should use social media” author Eric Holdeman points to a study from the University of Central Florida finding that social media is “not only useful as a means of communicating for individuals but that it also can be a powerful means of gathering real-time information to assist in disaster response”.

The idea of mining social media for situational awareness is not widely accepted in the field of emergency management, with most focus being on getting a message out rather than finding actionable information to help modify a response. In a study that looked at Florida counties’ use of social media during Hurricane Irma, Associate Professor of Public Administration Claire Connolly Knox found “While 95% of the counties who used social media discussed it in positive terms in the AARs and focus group discussions, less than half of the counties engaged in two-way communication, or pulled information for situational awareness or rumor management,” Knox says. “There is progress in using social media, but we certainly have a way to go.”

Knox’s paper continued, “There are certain challenges such as correcting bad information and combating rumors, but social media can also provide rich information that properly shared can help emergency managers and their teams better respond to emergencies such as hurricanes, the researcher said.” To read more of this paper see

See More information on the following PUSHECS Council page.

Developing a Social Media Plan

For almost a century, radios were the primary means of communication within the public safety community, linking personnel to their dispatchers and each other while cellular services offered users high-speed wireless voice and data communications over a broad geographic area, significant benefits over traditional radio systems. In addition, cellular service providers have started offering a variety of “public safety LTE” services, such as broadband push-to-talk (PTT), making cellular devices increasingly useful to the public safety and emergency management community.

Each technology has advantages and disadvantages. While its data services are limited, radio systems can provide one-to-many voice communications on a single frequency/channel, which is vital in large-scale response operations where bandwidth can quickly become congested. Radio systems also broadcast using external antennas at higher power than mobile phones and tablets—features that reduce interference and increase coverage area—and can continue to communicate radio-to-radio even if the radio infrastructure fails. Cellular systems’ strength lies in their high-speed data capabilities and nationwide network coverage. While cell service is vulnerable when natural disasters destroy cell towers or the network is overwhelmed by traffic volume, vendors are working toward solutions such as priority and preemption services such as those used by FirstNet and Verizon.

While cellular services offer many benefits they are unlikely to displace radio systems in the foreseeable future, but it is likely that the two technologies will merge. Service providers and vendors are already offering gateways and software that can integrate the two, and public safety agencies across the United States are implementing these solutions to enhance their operational efficiency.

The benefits of merging the systems will be to take advantage of the benefits of each system to increase services, reliability, and reduced expense. Executive leadership may prefer to use smartphones with PTT apps as they don’t have a true need for expensive radios. Temporary users can be authorized to use a personal smartphone on an integrated network for temporary use or for predetermined periods, such as a planned event or emergency situation. Access can be revoked after the event or at a pre-programmed date to ensure only those who have a need to access the system have access.

Integrating radio and cellular communications platforms offers public safety agencies and emergency management staff unprecedented flexibility and a host of new options. As with any technology, however, careful thought, research, planning, and training are requisite for success.

  • Start by identifying needs and learning which aspects of radio/cellular integration could meet them.
  • Focus your integration plan on the features that will satisfy your highest priority needs first.
  • Involve your organization’s communications experts early and build a working relationship with the cellular vendor.
  • Be realistic about your expectations.
  • Roll out the implementation slowly, making sure all personnel affected—system managers and technicians as well as end users—know what to expect and are thoroughly trained.
  • Monitor progress and track problems that arise.
  • Welcome feedback and act quickly to resolve issues so personnel do not get frustrated and back away from using integrated features.

Additional Resources

PUSHECS Push-To-Talk over Cellular

SAFECOM and NCSWIC Release LMR/LTE Integration: Best Practices

Safecom LMR LTE Integration: Best Practices White Paper

Rogers Communications, one of Canada’s largest cellular and internet providers experienced a 15-hour nationwide outage on July 8th, 2022. The outage impacted internet and cellular service throughout Canada. Company CEO Tony Staffieri attributed the failure to a maintenance update the company implemented in its core network. The outage was estimated to have impacted a quarter of all internet traffic in Canada during the peak of the outage.

In addition to people not being able to use their cell phones or the internet, the outage had a huge effect on a wide range of services across Canada including ATM machines and emergency services. Many 911 services reported difficulties with incoming calls and hospitals asked on-call staff to come into work until the issue was resolved. Emergency response services were also impacted as many ambulance services have come to rely on cell phones and internet connections to dispatch ambulances.

Rogers has about 10 million wireless subscribers and 2.25 million retail internet subscribers across Canada and is one of 3 major network and cellular companies in the country. The outage has led to calls on the Canadian government to increase network reliability and resist consolidation trends in the wireless/network industry.

The outage highlights the need for resiliency planning as a key part of a healthcare system’s emergency communications planning and understanding of how dependent we are on these systems of systems to provide daily services.

For more on Resiliency and Systems Thinking see the PUSHECS website.


External references on Rogers outage.

The MissionCritical Communications website has a number of white papers and webinars which may be of interest to the PUSHECS community.  Visit their website or see the links below.  Access to the webinars and white papers may require registration.

FirstNet — Medical Emergencies & HIPAA Compliant Data Sharing
Learn how Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, and American Medical Response are successfully managing growing volumes of patients and ambulance calls using FirstNet and the FirstNet Verified app – e-Bridge. Then, learn how ambulatory service providers quickly configure and implement another FirstNet Verified app – Corrata – to safeguard HIPAA-protected data on and between mobile connections and devices.

Erin Markt, Sr. EMS & Prehospital Coordinator, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA
Kimberly D’Angelo, Clinical Education Specialist, AMR Western MA
Curt Bashford, CEO, General Devices
Dylan Fermoyle, Vice President, Corrata


FirstNet — Apps Help Agencies Meet the Changing Demands as Incidents Unfold

Law enforcement agencies are challenged with disparate communication tools when other agencies and multiple disciplines are required for a coordinated response. In this webinar, learn how tools implemented by SWAT helped the full police department and surrounding agencies quickly onboard onto a common operating picture as an active shooter event unfolded. Retired tactical operations veteran Brad A.K. Beck will give a live demonstration of a FirstNet Verified app – beamFirst – so you can see how to quickly provide situational awareness firsthand.

Then, learn more about how you can benefit from the new Compact Rapid Deployment (CRD) equipment offered by FirstNet. And, hear how your agency can use the no-cost services offered by the FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG) to maintain continuity of operations.

Bill Lane, Sr. Vice President, BeamLive Inc.
Brad A.K. Beck, Vice President Operations, BeamLive Inc.
Stephen Devine, Director of FirstNet Strategy & Policy, AT&T

WASHINGTON—On January 25, 2022, the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD), Seattle area emergency managers, public health officials, lab officials, and first responders conducted a virtual tabletop exercise of the BioWatch program. Participants discussed how they would respond in the event of a bioterrorist incident and identified ways to improve coordination. BioWatch hosts regular training exercises across all jurisdictions to equip partners with guidance, tools, and expertise to develop response plans for worst-case scenarios.

“BioWatch is a critical element of the nation’s bio-defense architecture. The program leverages state, local, and federal capabilities to enhance the opportunities to employ life-saving countermeasures in the event of a biological attack,” said Gary Rasicot, acting Assistant Secretary for CWMD. “Our job at CWMD is to help ensure our partners across all levels of government have the training and resources needed to prepare to respond to this type of incident.”

Seattle area public and private area organizations including Washington State Department of Health, Seattle Fire Department, Sound Transit, Northwest Healthcare Response Network, University of Washington Police, the Washington State Fusion Center, and others joined representatives from DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to review the roles and responsibilities of each organization in the event of an incident.

“The BioWatch exercise we just completed demonstrates the tremendous strength of our response system and collaborative interagency coordination here in the Greater Puget Sound Region. It truly reflects the great capability and capacity of our key partnerships from local, state, and federal agencies that would be able to be leveraged to detect and respond to a Bioterrorism event here in our region.” said Battalion Chief Dan Murray of the Seattle Fire Department.

The DHS CWMD BioWatch program operates 24/7/365 in over 30 major metropolitan areas across the nation to provide an early indication of a potential airborne biological attack. The program is managed by DHS CWMD, supported by other federal agencies, and operated by a network of scientists, laboratory technicians, emergency managers, law enforcement officers, and public health officials.

This exercise tested, evaluated, and allowed for improvements in coordination, communication, and decision-making should an actual bioterrorist attack occur. The combination of detection, rapid notification, preparedness, and planning helps communities take steps to save lives and mitigate harm. BioWatch hosted a similar exercise in Texas last week.

CWMD serves as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s focal point for counter-weapons of mass destruction efforts. By supporting operational partners across federal, state, and local levels, CWMD coordinates and manages the detection effort for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN), and health security threats.

Professor Moshe Vardi with Rice University provides an excellent article on the impacts of prioritizing efficiency over resiliency.  As we build technology and communication systems some of these key ideas should be considered as we plan for the trade-offs and between cost efficiency and the need for resilient systems needed to provide critical communication capabilities during emergency incidents.

Professor Vardi writes, “

There is a trade-off between efficiency and resilience. Efficiency requires optimal adaptation to an existing environment, while resilience is an ability to adapt to large or sudden changes in the environment. Society’s emphasis on short-term gains has long tipped the balance in favor of efficiency.

The bottom line is that resilience is a fundamental but underappreciated societal need. But both computing and economics have underemphasized resilience. In general, markets and people are quite bad at preparing for very low-probability or very long-term events.

Three recent crises – the 2021 winter storm in Texas, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Boeing 737 Max software failure – highlight the cost of valuing efficiency over resilience and provide lessons for bringing society into balance. “

Read the rest of this thought-provoking article here:

Engineers and economists prize efficiency, but nature favors resilience – lessons from Texas, COVID-19 and the 737 Max
Moshe Y. Vardi- Professor of Computer Science, Rice University
Article in “The Conversation” May 18, 2021

As the healthcare community continues to deal with the many difficulties of the COVID crisis staff burnout is becoming a major problem for many organizations.  Helping staff build their own personal resilience, or just building your own personal resilience is a key part of making sure your organization is prepared for all the other incidents and issues we face every day.

Building Your Resilience” published by The American Psychological Association provides great advice on how to build personal psychological resilience.

Their article provides a road map for personal resilience to help not just with dealing with COVID but for allowing you to deal with everyday stresses.  As the article states, “There are many aspects of your life you can control, modify, and grow with. That’s the role of resilience. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.”

Article URL


This spring, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) field tested FirstNet’s Push-to-Talk (FNPTT) application, which is a standards-based, mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) app. The app allows voice, video, and data communications with high priority and low delays with the press of a button.

Over the course of one month, 50 federal government organizations tested the app in different scenarios that reflected real-world responses. MCPTT is the public safety mission-critical standard set by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which is responsible for LTE and 5G global standards. Representatives from the Joint Wireless Program Management Office (JWPMO) and FirstNet AT&T were also involved with the field test.

Many of the available apps in the marketplace are not standards-compliant, which poses a significant challenge for users of current push-to-talk solutions. It presents a barrier for interoperability and sustainability, with different proprietary solutions and associated costs.  MCPTT includes key characteristics useful for public safety: high availability, reliability, and low latency; 1:1 calls and group calls; emergency calling; device-to-device direct communication and location reporting.

For more information see the full article at the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology website.

“On a November evening five years ago, Tennessee firefighters fielded calls about a fire burning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg. A few days later, high winds pushed the fire into the park’s Chimneys Picnic Area—out of control. 

Today, the Chimney Tops 2 Fire is considered one of the most devastating fires in the state’s history. Cell phone reception went down. The region’s 9-1-1 system couldn’t handle the call load. It caused an estimated $2 billion in damage—more than 17,000 acres were burned and 14 people died.

At the time of the fire the county ‘s emergency alert system had only 1% of the population enrolled to receive emergency alerts.  While the system was in place to send the alerts the work to enroll the local community had not been completed which made the system ineffective when needed for this emergency. 

A critical part of preparing our community and our local healthcare organizations for emergencies is making sure the available communication tools are used by our staff to receive critical communications.   PUSHECS has created a page with links to many of our regions City, County and Federal alert systems to assist your efforts to communicate with your staff the many alert system in place that they can sign up for so they can receive effective and timely emergency alert notifications.  Consider making this information available on your staff emergency preparedness programs.


See the PUSHECS page on regional and national alert systems for more information

A black swan event has, unfortunately, nothing to do with Natalie Portman or Western Australia; it describes an event that is extremely unlikely, but can cause massive upheaval. For example, the 2008 global recession or, say, pretty much all of 2020.

By definition, no one sees a black swan event coming — but researchers at Stanford are attempting to change that. They are building a computational method to try and predict when the next graceful neck will raise its head.

“This work is exciting because it’s a chance to take the knowledge and the computational tools that we’re building in the lab and use those to better understand — even predict or forecast — what happens in the world surrounding us,” Bo Wang, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford and senior author of the study, told Stanford News…….

Read the complete text of this article at BigThink  by author B. David Zarley