Section 4: When Disaster Strikes: Preparing Your Team


This course focuses on large-scale, advance-notice disasters, when you will have time to plan your strategy for monitoring social media. These next steps should be taken prior to a disaster.

Illustration of a smartphone running a social media platform, with four messages protruding from the screen. In the background is a photo split into two scenes: one of emergency responders on the scene of a disaster and the other a satellite image of a hurricane.



During a large-scale disaster, you will have to manage the large amount of social media content produced—much of it will be noise. First, identify the types of disasters most likely to affect your area. Then develop your social media team, tools, etc., with those risks in mind.

Importance of a Team Lead

Often, digital responders and volunteers work as part of a team. A team lead should be identified and can follow these steps to identify and develop processes:

  • Identify analysis tools and targeted social media platforms
  • Establish roles and responsibilities (and expectations) of each team member
  • Establish operating procedures
  • Designate a timeframe in which assigned members will be responsible to monitor social media platforms
  • Confirm the role your team will play, and discuss possible scenarios
  • Determine how you will communicate:
    • Internally
    • With partner organizations and other sources
    • To the public
  • Train, debrief, and support staff and colleagues
    • Establish the toolset, workflow, approvals, and communication procedures to use in disaster situations
    • Debrief staff after coverage, and adjust your future plans, procedures, checklists, and training to adapt to lessons learned and best practices

A Strong Team

As teams grow, communication between members becomes more complex, and consensus more difficult to achieve. In a disaster, a few people analyzing the situation, exercising good judgment, and making recommendations are usually more effective than many (Rogers, 1989). As you create or join a team, consider these concepts:

  • Use internal communications to share current information, so team members can keep each other up-to-date.
  • If team members are spread out across multiple time zones, be attentive to time differences.
  • Take breaks so team members can stay fresh and alert. Continuously recruit for replacements so they are ready if needed.



Provide training to your team on social media and use of additional tools. Training topics may include:

  • Operating procedures such as:
    • Reporting protocols
    • How to monitor social media platforms including search terms to use
    • How to verify information
  • Development of reporting protocols (deliverable for the stakeholder) and internal team reporting protocols
  • Effective communication
  • Crisis communication


Key Points

In this section, we covered the following main points:

  • Before disaster strikes, seek to develop a strong team of digital responders and volunteers dedicated to your social media mission.
  • Identify a team lead to coordinate social media disaster intelligence efforts.
  • Train your social media team on platforms, processes, procedures, and tools.