This past week was a noteworthy anniversary for the emergency management social community. It has been three years since the creation of the #EMGTwitter hashtag! For the past three years, emergency managers have been using the hashtag to share information and connect digitally with other emergency management professionals all over the world. Social media can be such a powerful tool, and I could not be more thankful for the emergency management community that we have with #EMGTwitter. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to discuss this subject as my monthly blog topic. #EMGTwitter means so much to me, and I can’t wait to see our community continue to grow on social media.
How it Started:
Back in 2017, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first year emergency manager excited to learn and share my passion with others. I refocused the purpose of my Twitter account back in 2015 when I joined the NWS Lubbock Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) as a way to build a weather situational awareness platform that would help me find severe weather reports to pass on to the local meteorologists who needed them the most. I started my social awareness feed by following both national and local media accounts. I also followed all of the local meteorologists in the area, as well as some local bloggers, chasers, and other weather sources. This built into following many intelligent meteorologists all over the country who used their Twitter account to share their work — which included new research, side projects, or personal forecast discussions. This network grew and I fell in love with being able to learn new things on social media from some of the best science professionals in the country.
Apart from learning new things in the field, there was also a sense of community that I never had. Those who fall in love with weather are a group of very unique people. I grew up loving weather and I never had an outlet to share my excitement with others who cared about it as much as I did. #WxTwitter was the perfect place for that. I could tweet about a storm or an exciting finding and find others who were just as excited about it. Instead of boring my family and hometown friends on Facebook, I found that I could share them with my meteorology friends and have a great time talking about our passion together. Little by little, I added meteorologists and weather enthusiasts all over the country and learned a lot of new information. I also had many laughs over weather forecasting memes that only #WxTwitter understands.
I had my #WxTwitter friends as I entered the field of emergency management in 2017. Over the summer and fall, I began searching for emergency management professionals to add to my Twitter network to share experiences with and learn from. I wanted that same feeling of community that I had in with #WxTwitter, with an added benefit of being able to learn from others, brainstorm, and bounce ideas off of others who know a lot more than I did. I still remember thinking “What if we had an EM hashtag for our community? We have #WxTwitter for meteorologists, but what do we have for EM?” I tweeted this out as a thought to my EM friends, hoping they would have some great ideas and brainstorm with me.
I was in luck! Dr. Samantha Montano (@SamLMontano), Mckinley Theobald (@Mckinleydenali), and The Readiness Corner Podcast (@ReadinessCorner) all responded to my tweet discussing the need for one for our community. At the time, we had #SMEM, but that was specific to “Social Media in EM” and VOST operations. We discussed the need for a general emergency management hashtag. By the end of the day, we all agreed on #EMGTwitter (Emergency ManaGement Twitter) and Craig Fugate even tweeted it out to support the use to share information and discussions in the EM field. Thus, #EMGTwitter was born!
How it’s Going
Since then, our emergency management community on Twitter has vastly grown! I have “met” emergency managers across the country and have had so many valuable learning discussions with many of them. I have even “met” EMs from all over the WORLD, including disaster professionals from Canada, South America, the UK, Australia, and India. This adds even more valuable insight about our field. It’s been amazing to learn how EM varies from country to country, and to also consider new ideas from other areas who do things differently. #EMGTwitter has helped me grow so much as a professional. I am so thankful for all of the learning benefits I receive from it weekly.
One of the biggest benefits that I have had is the knowledge and information sharing aspect of the community. #EMGTwitter shares new EM research findings, conference presentations, webinar summaries, disaster articles, EM professional blogs, official government EM releases, “opinion” discussions on the field, and many other valuable information sources. For this, I owe the most. As a new emergency manager, I had a massive appetite to learn. The sharing of all of this information allowed me to find, read, learn, and implement valuable emergency management strategy and info. I cannot thank the other EM professionals enough for every contribution to this “open-source” informational network. There are many work-related projects that I either started because I read about it through Twitter, changed to fit the lessons learned or discussion had on Twitter, or brainstormed with others about the need of that project on Twitter. Invaluable.
Also — the amount of friendly academia folks on Twitter who will help you receive publications cannot be thanked enough. This really helps fight the paywall that many public EMs face to get their hands on recent research findings that assist with practitioner implementation. Thank YOU!
As I mentioned previously, the ability to build a professional family or community in which you can connect with is an amazing feeling. Not only can we share our day to day tasks with each other (and often chuckle together at some of the daily struggles emergency managers face), but we can also be surrounded digitally by a bunch of people who share the same passion to save lives and help others. In times of blue sky, this felt amazing. In times of grey sky like 2020, it is even more welcoming. 2020 has been exhausting and challenging for all emergency managers. #EMGTwitter gives us a platform to encourage other professionals to keep pushing forward, to thank each other for the hard work we are all doing, to vent about struggles, and to look forward with hope at positive improvements coming for our field.
I have made friends and have met some of the most important people in my life through #EMGTwitter. I connected with many EMers out here in the MD/VA area, and their work, kindness, and encouragement is what influenced me to pursue growing my career here in the Mid-Atlantic. I have had so many great conversations with so many passionate people on here that made bad times in my personal life much better. As Bobby Boucher says in the Waterboy — ‘Thank you for being my friends.”
Networking and Mentoring
On top of the community aspect is the networking and mentoring. Many a time have I seen work done in a jurisdiction or state and have reached out to ask someone about it through Twitter. I have learned of new projects, but have also learned where my #EMGTwitter friends work and how they do things in their office and jurisdiction. When I meet another friend who may be interested in a certain project or topic, I have referred them to certain professionals in certain offices via Twitter if I know them and if the work they are doing aligns with the given interest. Digital networking gives birth to physical networking (or it did before COVID-19 and hopefully will after). I have initially met many MANY friends on Twitter and had the wonderful opportunity to meet them in person and grow a friendship outside of social. I will say the best part of meeting someone from our community is when you meet and one person says, “Your Miss Ashes, right?” It’s so funny, but sometimes I feel like we all know each other by username and profile picture.
The mentoring bit is important. #EMGTwitter can be a wonderful place to give back to students and up and coming emergency managers who are anxious to learn and dive in, just like I was a few years ago. I try to connect with any new EMers I can to help them however I can — whether it be sharing my own career struggles, suggesting training, coursework, or certifications, or pushing volunteer/internship/job opportunities their way. It is so important to take the time to nurture the up and coming professionals. After all, we all wouldn’t be where we are without someone who took the time to do that with us. Many of these people are #EMGTwitterers for me— thank you again!
The Future of #EMGTwitter
Where will #EMGTwitter go from here? I hope up and onward! 2020 has shown the rough edges of social media, such as misinformation, cruelty, bullying, and arguing. While these are damaging to any person’s mental health, I hope we will all still find ways to make #EMGTwitter a valuable and welcoming community for all emergency management professionals. Despite all of the negative talk about social media, I will always continue to discuss the positives the technology has had on our government communication and our community as well.
I hope we will continue to have seasoned professionals sharing years of experience and information with newer EMs to implement and improve upon. I hope new EMs will have the courage to ask veterans about their ideas on certain projects, and how those ideas may or may not work based on their experiences. I hope that we will continue to have respectful debates and discussions about some of the greatest challenges we face in emergency management, and that some of these conversations are converted into actions to make our field better. I hope that a sense of community remains, and that we can all bond together when the going gets tough just like we have in 2020. I hope that we will seek to connect different EM silos such as academia and practitioners, and that these relationships will lead to partnerships in research studies and government implementation. I hope for student mentoring, and that we continue to help passionate EMers on their journey as professionals.
What do you hope for regarding #EMGTwitter? What has the community meant to you? Thank you for being a part of mine.
Ashley Morris (@MissAshes92)