Sunday, December 30, 2012

At number 4: early March tornado outbreaks in the US

It astounds me that some are still debating whether or not our climate is changing. We had tornadoes at Christmas a few days ago. And, earlier this year, an outbreak of tornadoes in late February and early March caused significant damages through large parts of the US midwest.

To me that series of events is important to the development and general acceptance of SMEM by emergency managers for a few reasons:

  1. social media played a key role in the alerting process 
  2. social networks were extensively used to help with the response and early recovery efforts 
  3. the use of social media made its way beyond the realm of the PIO and into other functions of the EOC.
Screen Capture from Tweetdeck showing the hashtags #Henryvillehelps and #Henryvilleneeds

These events affected a great number of people throughout many states. For many of them, social networks proved to be an essential lifeline. In fact, the technology can be used to harness the power of the crowd, increase community resilience and play a key role in recovery efforts. Here's what my friend Kim Stephens wrote earlier this year on a project combining all these.

For the above reasons, the outbreaks of tornadoes in late February and early March rank at number 4 in my list of top 10 SMEM-related events of 2012.

The list so far: 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

At number 5: the Aurora theatre shooting

Before the terrible tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, just a few days ago, the massacre at the movie house in Aurora, Colorado, seemed to be the most incomprehensible of calamities. We now know that something truly evil lurks in the shadows and can happen at any moment.

But what made the Aurora tragedy such an important moment for #SMEM? To me, it marked the generalized realization that news breaks on social media, particularly on Twitter. This makes monitoring and keeping situational awareness through social networks a must. Most of us can now follow unfolding events in real time as people tweet, instagram, facebook and reddit them. We can build instant stories based on what's being shared. Social networks even help create a sense of collective empathy. 

The legacy media has picked up on that and to remain relevant, they too jump on the social bandwagon when incidents occur. Why not? They now have thousands upon thousands of "citizen reporters" they don't have to pay. So they maintain pretty solid social media monitoring postures.

What's the price for not being "socially convergent aware"? Ask the NRA (again?)
 or a UK online retailer (CelebBoutique), how they felt when they sent automated tweets hours after the incident ...without really being aware of what had just happened.

The lesson here? Monitoring social media is now an essential part of maintaining situational awareness ... and you must have a plan to ramp up from routine social listening to a full on social surveillance program when an incident occurs. Are you ready for that? 

To me, the attention brought to the role social networks played in getting the story out, makes the Aurora shooting number 5 on my list of top 10 SMEM-related events of the year.

The series so far: 

Series introduction (Dec. 5,m 2012)
#10: the Israel-Hamas War (Dec. 9, 2012)
#9: the wildfires in the western US (Dec. 12, 2012)
#8: the SMEMTO conference (Dec. 16, 2012)
#7: the lauch of FEMA's SMEM course (Dec. 17, 2012)
# 5: The Aurora shooting (Dec. 26, 2012)

Jim Garrow's list on his blog: The Face of the Matter 

Friday, December 21, 2012

at number 6: SOPA, leave my web alone !

I've talked about "social convergence" in emergency management before. The social convergence equation: mobile tech + social networks = empowered citizenry/volunteers + greater mobilization of data/people, reflects societal changes that go far beyond how we respond to disasters.

The greater participation by the public, this democratization of not only emergency management but government as a whole, is not going away. This is a direct result of the perception of the web as a free forum for all sorts of exchanges. 

So when the powers that are (lead by Hollywood) tried to restrict that perceived freedom through the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)/Protect IP Act (PIPA), a huge online surge of indignation followed. It was perhaps the largest and most visible representation of "people power" on social networks and the internet. 

It also helped bring to the fore a kind a cultural/age divide, which is (appropriately) diminishing as months go by. For one, the representative of the film industry, a former US Senator, totally misread this new wave of direct democracy.

So what are key learning lessons for the SMEM community in the SOPA affair?

  1. transparency is essential 
  2. incorporating the public's participation is paramount 
  3. don't ignore online sentiments and perceptions of your response ... they'll derail it.
  4. the era of "we know best" is long gone ... there's is lots of wisdom in the crowd.
For all these reasons, the SOPA episode ranks sixth in my list of top 10 SMEM-related events of 2012.

The series so far: 

Series introduction (Dec. 5,m 2012)
#10: the Israel-Hamas War (Dec. 9, 2012)
#9: the wildfires in the western US (Dec. 12, 2012)
#8: the SMEMTO conference (Dec. 16, 2012)
#7: the lauch of FEMA's SMEM course (Dec. 17, 2012)
#6: The SOPA episode (Dec. 21, 2012)

Jim Garrow's list on his blog: The Face of the Matter 

Monday, December 17, 2012

At number 7: the launch of FEMA's SMEM course

It was the middle of the summer when the launch (re-launch?) of FEMA's IS-42 course: Social Media in Emergency Management, brought the SMEM community abuzz. Why do I believe it deserves the seventh spot in my list of top 10 SMEM-related events? 

Simple, IT'S FEMA! What they do influences many. No matter how people feel about "big government" ... leadership still counts. Under Craig Fugate's turn at the helm, FEMA has embraced outreach and the tools that foster citizen, volunteer and community involvement. From the launch of the new "whole of community" document earlier in the year, to promoting the use of social networks in emergencies, FEMA gets it.

If you add this to the guidelines from the DHS First Responders Communities of Practice/Virtual Social Media Working Group, the US feds are paving the way from some crucial change.

Is it done? By no means ... but some interesting work has been completed. Challenges remain: How will the IMS/NIMS doctrine be modified to be relevant in the age of "social convergence"? Does the very structure of command need to change

Perhaps these questions are too premature. Lots of ground needs to be covered ... many organizations still look at SMEM with some trepidation

But someone needs to lead the way. Even as a Canadian, I can see great value in FEMA's accomplishments in that regard.

Series introduction (Dec. 5,m 2012)
#10: the Israel-Hamas War (Dec. 9, 2012)
#9: the wildfires in the western US (Dec. 12, 2012)
#8: the SMEMTO conference (Dec. 16, 2012)
#7: the lauch of FEMA's SMEM course (Dec. 17, 2012)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

at #8: holding a SMEM conference in Toronto

You'll excuse me for being a bit parochial in my choice for the 8th spot on my list of top smem-related events in 2012. I include the SMEMTO (social media in emergency management - TOronto) conference because it marked the first such event in Canada that gathered government officials, emergency managers, law enforcement officers, academics, NGOs, VTCs and private sector organizations.

The goal was to further promote the acceptance of social media by governments and emergency management officials and showcase the powerful force-multiplying effects that digital volunteers can bring to the table.

Putting together an event like that is never easy but our team (Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services + Public Safety Canada + University of Toronto) was able to attract relevant and respected speakers which included, among others:

  • Shayne Adamski from FEMA (@shayneadamski)
  • Chris Stelmarski (then from DHS) (@ski)
  • Doug Allport from MASAS
  • Lance Valcour from CITIG  (@lance_valcour)
  • Jason Cameron from the City of Calgary (@jayCyyc)
Special thanks to Peter Sloly (@deputysloly), the deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service whose keynote at lunch had everyone talking. And on a personal note, to my good friends Kim Stephens (@kim26stephens) and James Garrow (@jgarrow) for coming up and animating the last session of the day. Their presence confirmed to me once again, how knowledgeable and always willing to help, these two leaders of the SMEM community really are.

What did we achieve at SMEMTO? We started a lot of conversations, bridges were built, the CanVOST creation grew out of it too ... We made a positive impact for the more than 200 people who attended ... perhaps our reach extended much further since our conference hashtag (#smemto) actually trended in Canada that day! 

Thanks again to all that made it possible.

Series introduction (Dec. 5,m 2012)
#10: the Israel-Hamas War (Dec. 9, 2012)
#9: the wildfires in the western US (Dec. 12, 2012)
#8: the SMEMTO conference (Dec. 16, 2012)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

at #9: wildfires heat up SMEM and crisis comms debate

Helicopter Fighting The High Park FireAs I've said before, I try to learn as much as I can from a variety of sources and other people's experiences.   In June, earlier this year, as wildfires were raging across Colorado and other western states, a lot of attention was directed at the use of social media by authorities.

What first came to my attention, was the misguided notion by a local sheriff (Justin Smith, Larimer County, Colorado) to keep the media from showing images of the devastation caused by the fires. It was a noble intent in the sense that he didn't want residents who had lost their house to be further victimized.

What's the lesson here? It's entirely futile in the age of social convergence, to try to keep the media or anyone else, from sharing pictures or other information. The way the disaster story is being told has forever changed and does not depend on legacy media. So picking a fight with reporters and news outlets is totally clueless. 

Although the evolution to crowdsourced news in not fully complete and many organizations still rely on "old ways" to tell their story, we're well down the road to the overwhelming acceptance of social media as an emergency information tool.

Some very illuminating examples of that can be found from the same wildfires that had Sheriff Smith so bothered with the media. One of the more probing case studies comes out of the Waldo Canyon Fire of late June.

There, the local sheriff's department (Jefferson County), made extensive use of their web and social media properties to convey info to residents. But more importantly, people themselves created their own news networks and shared and retweeted official and unofficial information.

That's what reveals the futility to try to cordon off segments of information. With so many sources available, why pick a fight you're going to lose? 

This highlights the ultimate point I often try to make about social convergence: organizations must move at the speed of their audiences (social networks) or face irrelevance. They must also use the tools they use (mobile devices) to have any chance to reach them and possibly be heard.

The top 10 SMEM-related events of 2012 so far:

#10: the Israel-Hamas war  (Dec. 9)
#9: the wildfires in the western US (Dec. 12)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Top #smem-related events of 2012: at #10: Israel-Gaza war

Here's the first post in my Holiday series on top SMEM events of the year. 

Some may think there's little in common between a war in the Middle East and social media in emergency management. Well, I like to think you can identify lessons to learn from pretty much any field, anywhere.

I've said in the past that social convergence now should now have agencies/organizations do four things all at once from the onset of any incident:

Furthermore, you conduct social media monitoring for five key reasons:

  1. verify the effectiveness of your emergency information messaging
  2. rumour control
  3. detect and deal/respond to any request for assistance
  4. identify reputational threats that could undermine your ability to fulfil your mandate
  5. enhance your situational awareness
So, where does the war between the Israeli Defence Forces and Hamas fit in? It's simple. Both sides in the recent conflict understood that you need to own the public space on social networks to position your operations under the best possible light. That PR component played a key role in how international public opinion perceived the conflict.  

Ask FEMA if they need to "fight for their image" during response and recovery efforts. They sure do. Critics abound and ignoring them can undermine the effectiveness of any operation by bringing unwanted distractions from a focused enterprise. 

The same applies to the American Red Cross. Their efforts were fantastic and still doubts and frustrations were common. I remember a newscast where a resident of New York was complaining that " ... all those highly-paid Red Cross people are nowhere to be seen ..."  or words to that effect ... We all know that it's VOLUNTEERS that are at the heart of the Red Cross emergency operations but there was a perception of inaction and frustrations grew along with the volume of misinformation.

So, that's the lesson I learned from the Israeli-Hamas war. You must defend your response to any incident, using all the platforms and tools at your disposal (with a particular focus on social networks) even as your are conducting on-the-ground operations. 

No emergency is local anymore. Perceptions are shaped on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube (among others) instantly. Impressions are made on your street, in your neighbourhood, town, county, state/province ... across the country and the globe. 

Welcome to the SMEM PR war! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our second annual #smem holiday series of posts

Okay, so maybe two years doesn't make a tradition. However, my two American Amigos and I (James Garrow and Kim Stephens) have decided to repeat last year’s experiment and do an end of year/holiday series of posts once again. I'm not sure what exactly Jim and Kim have in mind but it'll be interesting for sure. 

My series will be the “top 10 SMEM events” of 2012. The selected events (totally arbitrary ... chosen by me ! ) will cover everything from natural disasters to conferences; all occurrences that helped move the integration of social media into emergency management over the last 12 months or so.

Since our efforts met with some success in our first try, why not risk it again? So stay tuned. My posts will follow every second day or so until we reach the “big reveal”. For last year’s list see the links here: 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Atten-hut ... Now Tweet! Of war and social media.

Modern warfare is waged on multiple battlefields at once. From the streets and alleys of Fallujah or Gaza, to the open stretches of the Arabian desert to the jungles of South Thailand, men still fight for ground or air superiority.

But more and more, other warriors fight in different arenas. Cyberwar is a reality. We've seen it in quasi-open conflicts (Estonia/Russia), in open battles (Georgia/Russia), in the not-so-cold war and spying between China and the rest of the world. Now we're witnessing it as well in Gaza, Israel and other parts of the Middle East.

We're also seeing the emergence of a social version of the infowar ... where the fight is for the hearts and minds, of not only national constituencies, but international public opinion. Isreali "social warriors" are now the new cool kids on the block

The use of social media in modern societies is now so prevalent that it actually can become a tactical tool ... because we're humans and like to talk about what we're witnessing. That can pose a risk as Israeli authorities have deemed.

We saw in the Mumbai terror attacks, and we're seeing it again in Gaza and Israel, the crowd uses mobile tech and social networks to livestream/tweetcast the conflict. And this can be mapped quite accurately.

So what does this means for crisis communicators or emergency managers? There are clear parallels. As we've seen from Hurricane Sandy, our audiences can get pretty upset when they feel our response is not what it should be. Monitoring and engaging on social networks becomes vital to any operational activity so that the focus can remain on the response and not veer into political damage control.

Ask Governor Christie, Mayor Bloomberg, the American Red Cross and FEMA how important it is to win the "hearts and minds" of not only the people impacted by disasters but also a much larger set of audiences.

Do you have a social war room ready for battle? Ready to guard and defend your reputation the next time you're engaged in an operational response? You better be ... your whole mandate, your very existence, might be undermined by the false (or accurate) perception of a mishandled reaction to a disaster.

Remember, the three critical roles of the public information officer in a disaster in terms of pushing out info:

  1. giving out info that will help people stay safe ...
  2. giving out the info so our audiences can adopt the behaviours we want them to adopt (evacuate, shelter in place, prepare)
  3. and put your response under the best positive light ... the PR component of his/her job 
It's that last bit that is so often forgotten. The current social war, amid a very real shooting war, indicates how essential guarding your reputation against threats ... even in a preemptive fashion, is to the very success of your operations.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

10 reasons why there'll now be a before Sandy and a post-sandy in SMEM

There has already been a few solid analyses of the use of social media in emergency management (SMEM) as it applies to the response and early recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Few have been more to the point than this one from Gisli Olafsson of NetHope. We knew this was going to be different even as the exact extent of damages were unknown and as preparations were being made, as my good friend Kim Stephens points out

Whereas I had plenty of time in the fall of 2011 to undertake a full review of the use of social media for Hurricane Irene, I don't have that kind of time now. So, very quickly, here are 10 reasons (in no particular order) why I believe this storm marks a turning point for the SMEM movement.

  1. Yes, they are right! New York (and the surrounding area) is the centre of the universe. (at least in a legacy media sense). What was bound to happen was endless scrutiny of the preparation and the response. But also, many media outlets brought the use of social media during the storm to the front page. How people created their own networks to stay informed, ask for and receive help and much more. It's New York kind of thing now (SMEM) and one that won't go away! 
  2. Crowdsourcing the truth. From collectively identifying fake pictures on Instagram and other visually-oriented social networks, to debunking false rumours on Twitter and outing people purposefully spreading misinformation, the online truth squad was on duty. Social networks are at once the hotbed of all sorts of crappy things and the canvas on which the truth can begin to emerge. More on this from Patrick Meier.
  3. Crisis Mapping hits the big time. Media outlets, countless agencies, corporations and hundreds of digital volunteers produced a variety of maps on many topics: power outages, communications outages, availability of gas and many more. Here's a pretty good list. Volunteers gathered at crisis camps, hackathons and in many darkened living room to do some fabulous work. Whether all these maps made a valid contribution or not, the phenomenon cannot be overlooked.
  4. Some requests for crowdsourcing situational awareness enhancements, aggregating existing databases and mapping incidents on maps came from "high-level official sources". More on that later but this adds to the legitimacy of expanding the emergency management family to digital volunteers.
  5. Many governments, at all levels, used social media to communicate with their constituents before, during and after the passage of Sandy. Again, social networks (particularly Twitter) proved to be effective emergency information tools.
  6. Social networks became a true lifeline for many. Calls for help, offers to assist, or messages to let friends and family know "I'm OK!" ... were abundant. What's clear is that people turn to social media to share their experiences during a disaster. More then ever they do so through their mobile devices ...especially when power is out. Individuals, businesses, anyone with some sort of power, became an invaluable resource if they could let you charge your phone
7. Volunteer organizations with expertise in SMEM really made a difference. Whether they were officially requested (such as the NY Virtual Operations Support Team or NY VOST), or turned themselves into portals for all sorts of emergency and preparedness info (such as Humanity Road did) or remained the stalwart provider of life-saving, up-to-the-minute info (such as the New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service or NY ARECS), their presence on Twitter and other social networks was essential to the safety of many residents of the impacted areas. 
8. First responders and local emergency managers were very active. A new SMEM hero was born and she managed to help make the FDNY a beacon of hope for many New York residents in very difficult times. Dave Statter, from Satter 9-1-1 blog fame identified others who were active:
I know I am will be missing some, but here are few in my region I followed that seemed to be doing a very good job of keeping the public informed via Twitter: Alexandria, VA (@AFDCHIEF200), Arlington County, VA (@ARLINGTONVA), Fairfax County, VA (@FAIRFAXCOUNTY), Howard County, MD (@HCDFRS,@HCDFRS_CHIEF@KENULMAN), Montgomery County, MD (@MCFRS@MONTGOMERYCOMD), Prince George’s County, MD (@PGFDPIO@PGPDJULIE@COUNTYEXECBAKER ), Washington, DC (@MAYORVINCEGRAY@IAFF36).

9. the Red Cross Digital Operations Centre proved that organizations who dedicate resources to SMEM (especially social media monitoring) are best placed to play a role and fulfil their mandates during a disaster. 

10. Finally, FEMA's decision to highlight its social media rumour control activities brought to the fore, this absolute necessity for the operations of any emergency info centre or JIC. Countering rumours and misinformation, is now more critical then even, when news moves at the speed of social networks. False information can not only damage the reputation of any response organization, but it can also put lives in danger. 

There, you have it. Still not convinced that we've reach a critical moment in the evolution of SMEM? Read this post from my buddy Jim Garrow. So, it's time for us who work in EM and crisis comms to catch up with our public and the pioneers in SMEM. We need to adjust our posture to be able to deal with a flood of information that comes with any disaster.

Are you ready for the age of social convergence in emergency management? 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Too much info during incidents: time for a new command position?

As Hurricane Sandy (#sandy or #frankenstorm on Twitter) approaches the East Coast, we are once again witnesses to a great volume of information and warnings put out by a whole slew of sources. Governments (federal, state, municipal), the media, volunteer technical communities (VTCs). Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOSTs), the private sector, bloggers and ordinary citizens.

Even though we are still just anticipating the storm, some serious efforts are being deployed, particularly in crisis mapping: Tweak the Tweet, ESRI, Google Crisis Response and others, are using this tool to gather info. Anyone can see how easy info overload can happen.

Now, go forward in time, let's say 24 hours, and all those channels, at the local, state and even federal level, are totally jammed with requests for assistance, witness accounts of the evolving situation, and comments on how the response is being handled. It all becomes a big noise ...

Information should be the most valuable commodity for an incident commander or an EOC director. If we adopt the view of "whole of community" approach to preparedness and resilience. we should also aim for "community-based situational awareness" or a fully comprehensive user-defined operating picture.That means integrating intelligence from social listening activities.

That's where the value of SMEM (social media in emergency management) really comes to the fore. The social convergence (mobile tech + social networks) results, on one hand, in empowered volunteers (organized or spontaneous), and in greater scrutiny and even criticism, on the other hand.

All this results in a veritable flood of information that could have an impact on any incident response, from ops to the PIO function. So, I'm thinking the time has come to modify the ICS/NIMS structure and add a formal intelligence officer position as part of the command staff. I've talked before about the need to make a similar change in terms of providing emergency information. 

I know making change to the doctrine is not a popular topic but times change, how people consume and produce information has changed as well. I also know that span of control issues could arise by adding another command position (if you add the general staff and command staff chiefs/positions ...).

But the environment of any incident has changed because of social networks. Information is available in real-time and should be added to the decision making process. Now, I'm not talking about an Intel Officer position in the sense of criminal intel (for my law enforcement friends who might be troubled by access to this kind of info) or in the normal military sense. This concept of an incident intelligence officer is more in the contextual analysis and environment that surrounds every disaster or crisis.

It's more akin to an information manager role, controller of all the data that's available to command. The photographer/developer who puts all the available operating pictures into a useful mosaic of ops pictures ... to come up with a "global view" of the incident.

I see the benefits as follows:

  1. better, more comprehensive, community-based situational awareness for command
  2. supports better decisions by giving more info for the allocation of strategic resources in tough fiscal environments
  3. makes reporting up to higher echelons (political or otherwise) easier with a more "constituency-oriented" picture of what the incidents means ...
I'm sure this will get a lot of comments ....looking forward to them! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Big exercise = big lessons learned in SMEM

I had the opportunity this week to take part (mostly as observer/coach) in a big emergency management exercise. Trillium Resolve had more than 1,000 participants from 50+ organizations in a vast part of southwestern Ontario.

The scenario was based on a series of severe weather events impacting municipalities in four different counties and the largest nuclear power station in the world (with 8 reactors ...).

A scenario this ambitious proved to be too enticing for not trying to add on a social media component. As part of the design team, I promoted early on, a "closed loop" approach. This was done mainly to ensure that no exercise tweet or Facebook post would cause concerns.

The way I thought we could do this without overburdening the exercise players, was to simulate the "output" of a social media listening operation. Based on the "tweak the tweet" syntax, I developed a series of report such as this one. Whenever possible or relevant, I added geo-location data and pictures or videos to add to the realism. 

The original intent was to have the reports send via email to different EOCs and PIOs playing. What actually happened was that the exercise controllers, broke down the reports and included individual simulated posts/tweets on a fake news web site that had been created for the exercise. So it ended up that players, especially PIOs/comms people, actually had to monitor social media and web/media stories in real time. 

Now, if we had had the time and resources, we could have used a tool such as Simulation Deck which is rapidly growing popular among the military, academic and corporate sectors, as a tool to test social media monitoring capabilities.

By trying to inject some contemporary reality into the exercise play, we were trying to do four things in relations to monitoring social networks:

  1. develop our ability to keep up with the volume of data we needed to keep an eye on (social and traditional media)
  2. increase our ability to identify social network injects which posed reputational threats or we calls for info or help
  3. determine what data could be analysed and transformed into solid intel for decision-making purposes and putting in place the channels to flow that info
  4. finally, validate the process for engagement/responses
Since I wasn't playing, I wanted to test my own skills ... so I started a crowdmap of not only the play injects but also the real-life media stories and posts about the exercise ... It was hard to keep up. I've written before that social media monitoring can be quite challenging and requires a team effort.

So, in closing, some key lessons I learned (or learned again !) during the week. To be effective, a social media listening/monitoring program needs the right resources ... it's a big job! You need (in my estimation):
  • to do the basic listening and searches, 
  • to tag/analyse/collate/curate the info and make it into actionable intel or tasks 
  • to conduct the engagement piece and respond to calls for help, request for info or dispel rumours.
It's more than one person could do ... or even three. Also, another key piece is to put in place, ahead of time, the channels through which the output of your social listening program will flow.

And very importantly, find a "champion" in your organization's leadership, who believes in the validity of the info that results and acts upon it ... proving that social media monitoring is now an essential part of any response to a disaster or crisis.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Crisis communications readiness: a necessity

I often say that every organization should have a thorough crisis communications plan and that every response plan should have a crisis comms component. Furthermore, every employee should receive some sort of media relations/public outreach awareness training because they can all become the "face" of the organization during a crisis.

in addition, social convergence (mobile tech + social networks) means that someone is always watching you ... or at least has the mean to tape (videotape too) what you're doing ... catch their actions for posterity.

There is no way to avoid crises ... people make mistakes, have lapses of judgment ... and they get caught on tape or called out online.
Nothing goes unseen today ...well not much ... the most fleeting, embarrassing moment can come back to haunt you. This briefest of movement of one finger, caused a fire chief to publicly apologize. 

Now, when you do something dumb in a deliberate manner, in front of cameras ... then you're asking for trouble:
Okay ... that's once right ? People learn from their mistakes ... don't do something stupid like that again ? ... Well, it would seem not in every case ... read this account of a second troubling incident involving the now infamous "badge 728.

You know you're really in trouble when your boss has to apologize on your behalf and behalf of the whole organization:

Online mistakes can equally be as painful: 

That particular tweet prompted this apology:

We've deleted an unauthorized tweet made from this Twitter handle. We apologize to all of our followers for the inappropriate language used.

A fantastic top 20 list of online/social media mistakes can be found here.

A few of lessons here:

  • dust off your crisis comms plan and exercise regularly
  • train your people and then train them again 
  • bring awareness of the social convergence and the challenges it brings to anyone who interacts with the public
Your people are human ... they will make mistakes ... the best way to counter them is to adopt a human approach. 

It worked well for the American Red Cross.
Some other good examples of how to handle mistakes or crisis on social media. We're in a brand new connected world ...we're all watching ...waiting for the next person to falter publicly ...