NEWS

Agencies Must Adapt to How People Use Information: FEMA Official

By Laura Spadanuta

WASHINGTON - If people are using Twitter.com and relying on their mobile phones to receive and provide information, then government agencies should adapt to that, W. Craig Fugate, adminstrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told a homeland security conference yesterday.

Fugate reiterated that view in an interview with Security Management following the panel discussion "Collaboration when Disaster Strikes" at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

(For more on Fugate and FEMA's use of Twitter and social media, please see "Bird's Eye View" by Joseph Straw, published in the February issue of Security Management).

Twitter allows individuals to push out 140-character posts called "tweets" and follow other Twitter users, whose posts are aggregated into an easy-to-read chronological feed. Users can also add a hashtag to their posts, which provides searchability. For example, the hashtags for the recent earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand, are #chch and #eqnz..

Fugate has long held a reputation as a technology advocate. Before he was at FEMA, he was director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and he told Security Management that he set up an exercise there that tracked how long it took to get a response when information was pushed out on Twitter rather than relying on, say, e-mail.  He looks at it not as "doing new things," but as "a way to do things we've always done in a faster way." 

"The public is not a liability, it's a resource," said Fugate during the panel session.

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