Using Social Media for Enhanced Situational Awareness and Decision Support

Hanscom, Donald H., Jr.

High-impact and high-visibility events have revealed the proliferation and widespread use of mobile devices. Combined with the rise in popularity of social media, the subsequent explosion in available information now spans multiple platforms and formats. Historically, the emergency response community has leveraged multiple data sources, including land mobile radios, maps, computer-aided dispatch, crisis management systems, traffic cameras, geographic information systems, and windshield assessments to collect information. Now, responders can leverage social media as well, both to communicate and to gather and share real-time, dynamic information to enhance situational awareness and assist in decision-making. The volume and speed with which available information is disseminated, combined with an inability to identify, verify, coordinate, aggregate, and contextualize it, however, can leave this information unused and ultimately, un-actionable.

This report discusses examples of how agencies currently leverage social media to enhance situational awareness and support operational decision-making, as well as challenges and potential applications. It also identifies critical areas requiring further consideration and research to address key technology, process, and policy gaps, including:


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