We have recognized a great deal of chatter and interest in the SMEM community around FEMA’s recently deployed Social Media in Emergency Management training course. So given this, we thought we’d take the course and provide some takeaways that might be helpful to those who are considering taking the training. If you have already taken the course, we would love to hear your thoughts as well.
In general, the course is very effective. It offers the proper social media foundation and a comprehensive case for why its use is both relevant and impactful in the emergency management world. Further, the course provides several checkpoints to assess your understanding of the content along the way. The examples and case studies are current and are presented via short, engaging video clips. On a practical note, this course is an interactive, web-based course, meaning you can take it anytime you like.
Social Media Novice?
No problem! This training courses sets out to, “provide the participants with best practices including tools, techniques and a basic roadmap to build capabilities in the use of social media technologies in their own emergency management organizations (State, local, Tribal) in order to further their emergency response missions.” This description might suggest to some that you must first “get it” when it comes to social media and that this course is going to focus solely on social media in the emergency management scope. As a matter of fact, the course also provides a very digestible breakdown of the social platforms, how they are used, and examples of use in the Emergency Management space. Whether you are new to the concept of social media or well-versed, you will feel like the objectives of each lesson were met at the completion of the course.
3 hours?! I don’t have 3 hours…
Observably, there is a ton of information packed into this 3-hour course. Thankfully, you don’t have to block out a 3-hour consecutive window of time for this course. In fact, we advise that you segment your time to get the most out of the course. The amount of information provided in this training feels a little like the water out of a fire hose effect. Similar to cramming for a test, taking this course all at once may not work best for recollecting all of the information. In sum, take your time!
The Social Media Landscape is Ever-Changing
The content developers of this course undoubtedly know their stuff, and so this likely goes without saying, but the social media world is and will continue to be a quickly evolving ecosystem. This means that training including general principles, best practices, examples and case studies, and the like must follow suit and be ever-changing as well. That said, this course was introduced in mid-July of this year (2012) so the case studies and examples are quite relevant…for now. The word of caution is take note of your training materials when it comes to social media. Don’t let this extremely dynamic world of social media deter you from diving in, but know that changes are happening day in and day out so static material is not going to be your most credible material.
A Few Parting Nit Picky Thoughts
The course offers a lot of valuable examples and case studies of social media use in emergency management. These anecdotes that speak to the impact of social media in this space are structured within seemingly run-on video clips. Participants may be confused as to where one example ends and the next begins. These are worthy of being distinguished as individual success stories. Be mindful of this as you take the course. Additionally, the interface could be made a bit more intuitive. Some screens in the lessons require the clicking of links for more information. Once the links are clicked, there is a flood of information. Perhaps displaying this information in a way that is more consumption-friendly (thereby avoiding that dreaded water out of a hose effect) will be considered in future iterations of the course.
In sum, this course is worth taking. You will feel like your time was used on valuable material and that you accomplished all of the objectives of the lessons and the course at large. If you’ve not yet taken the course, we hope that our observations regarding matters like segmenting your time on the course will prove beneficial. Again, we’re interested in hearing what you think of the training so please provide us your thoughts at will.
Carrie Bean is a Consultant at SRA International Strategy and Performance Group currently providing communications and outreach support for the First Responders' Group of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate. She has extensive experience in developing and executing strategic internal and external communication initiatives. Her contributions to AWARE focus on social media and disaster preparedness and response.