Government 2.5 Speaker
Partner / Chief Strategy Officer
Dennison+Wolfe Internet Group
“From the Sylmar Earthquake in 1971 Through the Hudson Bay Crash in January 2009, Follow the Evolution and Role of Social Media Through Various Emergencies and Crises”
Ojai is a beautiful little town of 8,000 residents located 90 minutes from Los Angeles, 45 minutes from Santa Barbara and tucked up against over a million acres of national forest. In September 2006, Ojai was threatened by the Day Fire, which was moving rapidly due to heavy winds.
I had started The Ojai Post, a multi-author community blog in February of that year. By September, we had grown to a dozen authors and a few hundred page views a day. As the fire increased in proximity and intensity, I began live-blogging with official updates, important information and summaries, which would carry on for days, providing what I later found out is called “actionable intelligence” – timely information people can use to make smart decisions during a crisis.
I got “ojaipost.com” mentioned at a town hall meeting, word spread and traffic took off – in the next 24 hours, we had over 6,000 unique visitors and 15,000 page views. We quickly became the primary source of information for the Day Fire.
As traffic to the site increased, so did user participation. Comments filled the one to two daily posts which were being updated every 5-10 minutes, and users were emailing me reports and photos. At times I had better information than the Ventura County Emergency Operations Center, which forced me to decide how to filter and present information to our readers in a way that provided the best and most recent information without causing undue alarm.
Emerging out of the experience, I received a fair amount of press and was brought in to county-level discussions with agency heads, politicians and the military around information dissemination and decentralization during times of crisis.
In late 2007, I co-founded Emergencity, Inc., which built a beta version of an emergency communications platform that incorporated official agency information, mainstream news and social media, with some great maps and timelines to pull it all together. While that company was a casualty of the liquidity crisis in late 2008, I have continued to consult and present around these ideas, most recently for the Center for Asymmetric Warfare Annual Symposium at Cal Lutheran University.
As Katrina demonstrated, if a major emergency strikes, we very well may be on our own for days. Having the ability to distribute actionable intelligence is critical in reducing stress in the community and on the deployed agencies, while strengthening resilience and the ability to respond.
I’m looking forward to joining you all at GOV2.5, listening far more than I talk, and contributing to a collective goal of improving government services and engaging the public through social media.