A major highlight of the Red Cross Emergency Data Summit earlier this month for me was meeting in person someone I have known — and have learned from — remotely for the last several years, Brian Humphrey from the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD). Brian has been a pioneer in the use of personal technology by government emergency officials to inform and engage the public.
Brian and his fellow LAFD public information officers manage an unparalleled social media operation in the government emergency field, including a blog about to hit three million visits and a Flickr site with seven million views. The Department recently split its Twitter account in two: @LAFD, which is reserved for fire and accident reports, and @LAFDTalk, which people can use to ask questions about fire extinguishers or whatever else fire-related is on their minds. Brian gave a terrific presentation at the Red Cross event about his work that can be found on C-SPAN’s website.
In the two-and-a-half minute video below, I asked Humphrey what he would tell other emergency responder agencies, which have not yet embraced social media in their work, ”I encourage agencies and people to jump in the water. That doesn’t mean enter head first. But get in the pool.” He urges a patient approach in which officials listen, absorb information initially. But he points out social media is a “force multiplier” for emergency agencies in distributing and gathering information. And he notes: “If it works in Los Angeles, it can work in your town too.”
Humphrey cites an example of social media’s usefulness in the wake of the stampede at Germany’s Love Parade at which 18 people died. He says that in similar types of events, LAFD uses social media to monitor the situation before it gets out of hand. He also urges the public to sign up for their local government text/email alerts, which offer an opportunity to get emergency information even before its delivered by the traditional media.
LAFD Public Information Officer Brian Humphrey discusses the use of social media and personal technology in the emergency services.