Managing Emergency Systems

Posted: July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

Information communication technologies (ICT) are quickly evolving with new and innovative usages in the areas of warning, rescue and relief, peer-to-peer sharing of vital information and coordinating emergency response efforts with organizations in emergency management situations (Sutton, Palen & Shklovski., 2008; Mark, Al-Ani & Semaan., 2009;Hughes & Palen., 2009; White, Plotnick, Kushma, Hiltz, & Turoff., 2009). Despite the possibilities of the general public sharing misinformation, information dearth from official media sources has driven individuals to turn to social media. As these technologies develop research will need to continue to evaluate how to effectively incorporate them into current emergency management systems.

As White et al. (2009) noted, when individuals are faced with life-threatening circumstances, the need to locate crucial resources, to be reached quickly and to coordinate emergency response efforts greatly increases. In the past, traditional media news sources could only offer a one-way stream of information (Sutton et al, 2008). In additionaffected citizens also voiced their frustration with the lack of relevant, local news sources, and their unwillingness to continue to rely on an outdated news system that cannot keep up with current methods of media sharing (Hughes & Palen 2009).

As a result of what Sutton et al. (2008) call “information dearth,” They concluded that members of the general public come together to seek out and share essential information. Similarly, when human infrastructure has been disrupted or damaged in times of war, individuals also have difficulty in maintaining social relationships and working onsite (Mark et al. 2009). During these times of crisis, traditional media sources fail in comparison with social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace they cannot offer the same efficient, effective and timely means for mass collaboration that the people living in these situations so desperately need (White et al. 2009). Conventional media also cannot compete with ICTs like Twitter to deliver that crucial information quickly enough for the general public to respond to emergency situations in a timely fashion (Hughes & Palen, 2009).

Researchers have concluded that when individuals are faced with life-threatening circumstances, ICTs have proven effective for information dissemination. (Sutton et al., 2008; Mark et al., 2009; Hughes & Palen, 2009; White et al., 2009). Sutton et al. (2008) asserted that individuals used social media to act as information brokers to aid one another during the 2007 Southern California wildfires.  Similarly, during the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, individuals also used social media to provide and distribute relevant information to affected citizens (Hughes and Palen, 2009). Not only have ICTs been reliable in times of natural disaster, but also in times of war. For example, during the ongoing Gulf war, people still maintained a social network using ICTs despite the destruction of physical infrastructures (Mark et al. 2009). Other researchers have come to a different conclusion on how social media could best serve the general public in times of crisis. In contrast to peer-to-peer emergency information sharing, White et al. (2009) contended that the creation of a social network where citizens could coordinate emergency response efforts with crisis experts would prove to be a viable solution to information dearth. 

Social media has proven to be a valuable instrument for information dissemination during crisis. Future research, development and training of information communication technologies would greatly benefit city officials and mainstream media in effectively incorporating social media into its existing emergency management system (Sutton et al., 2008; Mark et al., 2009; Hughes & Palen, 2009; White et al., 2009). Individuals would also benefit by learning how to utilize new technology and its application in the emergency arena to help improve information dissemination. In addition, the development of an exclusive social networking site for individuals and organizations to coordinate response and relief efforts would significantly increase emergency communication efficiency (White et al. 2009).








Hughes, A.L., & Palen, L. (2009). Twitter adoption and use in mass convergence and emergency events. Proceedings of the 6th International ISCRAM Conference (J. Landgren and S. Jul, eds.). Gothenburg, Sweden. Retrieved from Adoption in Mass Convergence_Hughes2009.pdf



Mark, G., Al-Ani, B., & Semaan, B. (2009). Repairing human infrastructure in a war zone. Proceedings of the 6th  International ISCRAM Conference (J. Landgren and S. Jul, eds.). Gothenburg, Sweden. Retrieved from Infrastructure in War Zones_Mark2009.pdf



Sutton, J., Palen, L., & Shklovski, I. (2008). Backchannels on the front lines: emergency uses of social media in the 2007 southern California wildfires. Proceedings of the 5th International ISCRAM Conference (F. Fiedrich and B. Van de Walle, eds.). Washington, DC, USA. Retrieved from


White, C., Plotnick, L., Kushma, J., Starr, & R.H., Turoff, M. (2009). An online social network for emergency management. Proceedings of the 6th International ISCRAM Conference (J. Landgren and S. Jul, eds.). Gothenburg, Sweden. Retrieved from Online Social Network For Emergency_White2009.pdf


  1. Nacho says:

    Completely agree, however I was surprised because you dont give any solution, the main problem that you pose is that, although technology give us the opportunity of the communication and in times of crisis is priceless we are in risk of fall in an other mentality, that doesnt allow us to know in deep our world, and, in fact, with a heavy reliance of technology.
    The way I see problem is that we think of technology as magic, we understand WHAT does, but not HOW does it. The possible solution of this problem is make the people understand what they are using… I know its not a realistic idea, very idealistic (hahaha) because you need to educate the people to learn about technology, but is easily to teach how to just learn. However this is pretty difficult to do already.
    Now a question: Do you believe that the big companies (or who is) that has the knowledge will “control” us? For example, nowadays they can sell you a computer, but if you made by yourself it will be best with the same price (If you have the knowledge). So, do you believe that this effect will get worst?

  2. seanjwilk says:

    Your comments are very clever and insightful. Corporations control the media and as long as there is potential corporate financial gain, industries will try to influence and manipulate consumers. Sadly this is not my belief but rather reality.

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