A federal program to train government employees, first responders, and other disaster response personnel in the use of services like Twitter and Facebook got its first trial run yesterday. The Hawaii-based National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) held a pilot demonstration of its course titled “Social Media for Natural Disaster Response & Recovery” at the Manoa Innovation Center.
The class was designed for people new to social media, beginning with a broad definition and overview of tools, before settling on Facebook and Twitter as the leading, recommended platforms. Participants explored both via hands-on exercises, setting up accounts, and even experimenting with crowdsourced maps.
I was among two dozen participants that stepped through the center’s new curriculum, a 189-page, seven module guide that started with defining and introducing social media and concluded with advanced monitoring and data mining techniques. It was developed in part by Hawaii entrepreneur Dave Kozuki, along with other NDPTC staff.
Most of the people present were active (if not obsessive) users of social networking tools, and we were asked to provide feedback on the course content. But there were also people representing the NDPTC’s target audience, including several people that were new to Twitter (everyone already had Facebook accounts).
Brian Shiro, who works with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, was able to share first-hand experiences in using social media to disseminate information to the public. Meanwhile, a representative from the Honolulu Fire Department shared some of the challenges these tools present, including privacy and liability concerns.
The NDPTC officially opened in February of last year, expanding a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to include the University of Hawaii. Its objective was to develop high-quality disaster training that focused on Hawaii, the Pacific Islands and other coastal communities. Other course offerings include volcanic crises, tsunami awareness, and flood risk reduction.
Course development coordinator Grant Chartrand said today that the demonstration is part of the 12-18 month course development process, and that once FEMA certifies the course, the center will be closer to issuing certificates for applying social media in disaster management.