This week the UK newspaper The Guardian reported ‘Hundreds of police staff investigated over use of Facebook and Twitter’. Although an important matter for public authorities like the Police, Fire & Rescue and Ambulance services, these organisations usually have a more than adequate code of practise or organisational standards that give clear guidance to users of social media to prevent abuse, or inappropriate use.
I believe the use of social media needs to be encouraged within the emergency services and it has a strong role to play if it can be successfully transformed into what we call ‘Mission Critical Social Media’. This is any text, tweet, photograph, image, video or audio file that needs to be sent to or from an officer in the field, which can add real immediate value to the officer or the community affected by an incident.
This is very much a two way process where uploading or downloading data to a single person or a group, whether within your organisation, outside in the community or inside other agencies, can have an immediate positive outcome of informing, calming, advising or directing people or events. That makes it mission critical. So you need the network, technology, device and organisational capability to allow you to identify, process and manage the important and time based mission critical data that can make a difference - from amongst the millions of messages that social media generates daily.
Can we use the same processes and systems that manage everyday social media to do something that can become Mission Critical? Public Safety agencies need to think carefully about this and have specific solutions that help their operators to identify and process what is ‘mission critical social media’ and what is not.
For example, Motorola’s Real Time Crime Centre enables Public Safety agencies to spot, retrieve, process and send mission critical information to officers on the front line. This is all about turning data into information and information into intelligence.
But it should not stop there. The devices and applications being used on the front line also have a key part to play in turning social media into Mission Critical Intelligence. A device and the applications running on it need to be context aware of the users’ needs; so information is managed and users are not overloaded with data at critical times. This means public safety officers will need dedicated and street ready data devices such as the LEX 755 Mission Critical Handheld.
Mission critical communications are guided by the principles of accuracy, brevity and speed using a network that will always be available, resilient and capable of meeting the demands of public safety users. Using social media to and from the field needs to be thought of and managed in the same way as we think of mission critical voice communications today. This is why we have solutions that can help you manage and deal with your ‘Mission Critical Social Media’ needs.
Peter Goulding is Public Safety Specialist, Motorola Solutions.
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