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Bringing Social Media into the Control Room

By Dan Gundry, Control Room Team

While not a new concept by any stretch, bringing social media into a control room environment is becoming a more popular, and business-critical, trend. Each type of control room has different needs and no two Concept of Operations (ConOps) are entirely the same. The what’s, why’s and how’s of social media feeds are no exception.

For example, during Hurricane Sandy, as power was knocked out to more than 2.4 million customers in New York and New Jersey, the public was able to view important information from government, meteorologists, and even friends and neighbors on their mobile devices.

The website Emergency Management has a provoking article on the importance of social media as a policing and security tool, lessons learned from the Boston Marathon Bombing. Some of the most important real-time and investigative data was from spectators’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Private corporations have small armies dedicated to brand and reputation management; they need to monitor their social media accounts as well as all the statistical information and trending data to stay ahead of the curve. 

Those same agencies and corporations also have a need to be aware of, and manage, potentially dangerous situations and threats that are founded and fostered online. Who is saying what about our enterprise and personnel? What threats have been levied against one of our facilities?  Who is organizing, and where, any protests and/or flashmobs?

So whether it’s monitoring a company’s social media accounts, tracking suspect hashtags, gaining first hand pictures and videos of real-time incidents, sharing information with the public, or viewing a range of relevant, 3rd party information (think weather, traffic, breaking news, etc.), the ability to bring these social media feeds into the command center is already a critical need of most ConOps.

Now, how do you accomplish this? How do you bring that stream of information into the control room, aggregate the right information from it, and present it in a visually impactful manner that facilitates better situational awareness and improved crisis management. The easy, and frustrating, answer is that it depends. It depends on the architecture of your control room technologies. It depends upon your network and how easily it is to access that information while still maintaining network security policies. It depends upon who the caretakers of the system are and how information is managed and maintained.

What is important is to make sure you are having the conversation with your technology partners. Talk about it during your ConOps planning. Talk about it during your regular partnering meetings and audits. And, if you want, you can always talk to me about it too.