What Should Researchers Know About First Responders?

I have been invited to speak next Thursday on a panel at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Academic Research Symposium.  The title of the panel is "Social Media Research for First Responders and Analysts" and it's goal is "...to help researchers understand what operational capability gaps need to be filled."

In hopes of informing my panel talk, I want to ask you what should researchers know about the operational needs of first responders?  Especially as it relates to social media!

I am excited about this workshop because it starts to put practitioners with academics in hopes of aligning the priorities of both worlds.  In fact, a new term is emerging called the "pracademic."  The pracademic has experience as both a practitioner and an academic and chooses to work to align the worlds so that academic research can be as applicable as possible.  Patrick Meier captures this well as "scholar-practioner" in Advice to Future PhDs from 2 Unusual Graduating PhDs.

Some prior practioner-based gap analysis work has already been done on this by DHS's Virtual Social Media Working Group (of which I am a member).  In June of this year, the VSMWG released Lessons Learned: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy.  The report highlighted many of the success and learning points regarding social media.  On page 29, it highlights a number of technology, process, and policy gaps requiring further attention.  The major themes included:

  • Big Data
  • Compliance and Requirements
  • Funding
  • Standards, Training, and Guidance
  • Policy and Process
  • Partnerships
  • Technology, Tools, and Features

I will undoubtedly speak to these gaps, but other feedback and thoughts would be helpful and greatly appreciated!

7 Ways to Help Victims of Superstorm Sandy Online

Mashable has posted 7 Ways to Help Victims of Superstorm Sandy Online.  It is a great resource for anyone interested in helping out.

  • The Red Cross: If you would like to give to the Red Cross, which has opened more than 190 shelters along the East Coast and has hundreds of disaster relief workers on standby, you can donateonline, by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. The Red Cross is also seeking blood and platelet donations. To learn more, visitRedCrossBlood.org.
  • The Salvation Army: You can donate $10 to the Salvation Army by texting “STORM” to 80888. If you are already volunteer-certified, you can sign up to help out with disaster relief.
  • AmeriCares: You can donate to AmeriCares’ relief fund to help the organization, which is distributing supplies to 130 clinics in the 13 states affected by Sandy.
  • World Vision: Despite flooding at its Bronx, N.Y. warehouse, World Vision is organizing relief efforts. You can text “GIVEUSA” to 777444 to make a $10 donation, or donate online to help.
  • Operation USA: If you would like your donations to go to efforts abroad, Operation USA is helping victims in Haiti and Cuba, who were also deeply affected by the storm. In addition to donating online, you can text “AID” to 50555 to give $10.
  • International Medical Corps: Another option for donating abroad is the International Medical Corp, who are coordinating efforts in Haiti.
  • New York Blood Center: You can donate blood, which will be used to help injured people, as well as hospital blood banks affected by the storm.

Post Landfall Volunteering for #Sandy around #NYC

LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, October 30, 12:14pm I have received several requests for information about how to volunteer.  I have started this list:

Key Information for NYC Hurricane #Sandy

LAST UPDATED:  Tuesday, October 30, 11:40 am Eastern Daylight Time. Here is some helpful information that I will be updating through out Hurricane #Sandy...


  • Over 80 homes destroyed/damaged with a fire in Queens
  • High rise crane collapsed on 57th and 6th Avenue in Manhattan.  FDNY is still trying to secure.  No significant damage yet.
  • NYU Langone Medical Center evacuated about 215 patients last night to area hospitals.  This was due to a failure of the power back-up systems.  Several other hospitals in NJ and out on Long Island had to evacuate as well.
  • Worst storm in the 108 year history of NYC transit. Many tunnels/stations still flooded and potentially affected by salt water.
  • Airports still closed.  Unknown timeframe for opening.
  • Power outages are widespread and the worst ever.  In some areas, expect outages from 3-7 days.
  • Official taxis can now pick up from anywhere in NYC and pick up multiple passengers on the way. 

A couple notes:

  • Use 911 ONLY for life-threatening emergencies.
  • If you see a wire down, don't go near it and don't touch it.  Call 1-800-75-CON-EDISON or 311.
  • If you see a tree down, text 311692.  Trees may still fall, please be careful!


  • Many people want to do something.  I will work on this over the week.
  • NJ has opened up a volunteer hotline to register people willing to help.  They likely do not have assignments just yet.  I am unsure of NYC.

Social Media.  Here are some helpful social media accounts to follow during the storm:


  • #Sandy
  • #Frankenstorm

Local Social Media

Flooding.  Following the storm, flooding will likely be pervasive.  Do walk or drive into ANY area in which you can not see the surface!  Flash floods may also occur.

Shelters.  76 shelters are available all over the city and can be found using the evacuation zone finder.  They are wheelchair accessible and are pet-friendly.

Subway, Rail, and Bus Closures.  Restoration may take at least 3 days.  Buses may begin operating sooner.  For updates visit:http://www.mta.info.

NYC Schools.  Closed for Monday, October 29, Tuesday, October 30 and Wednesday, October 31.

Parking and Meters.  NYC Department of Transportation has suspended Alternate Side Parking Regulations and payment at meters citywide for Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30..

Tunnels and Bridges.  Nearly all bridges and tunnels are closed due to wind and water conditions as of 7pm on Monday, October 29.  Lincoln and Midtown Tunnels may be open.  All bridges, except for those in the Rockaways, will be open by Tuesday, October 30 at 12pm.

Parks and NYC Facilities.  The following are closed as of 5 p.m. Sunday, October 28.

  • All City Parks
  • All City Playgrounds
  • All City beaches - Surfing is prohibited at all beaches throughout the course of the storm.
  • All Recreation Centers
  • All Nature Centers in parks
  • Greenmarkets, citywide

Evacuation.  By order of Mayor Bloomberg, NYC has issued an evacuation order for all people in "Zone A."  To find out if you are in Zone A, please go here and input your address.  For your friends that are furry, all NYC shelters are pet-friendly!  PLEASE follow this order if you are in Zone A.   Ordered about 12pm on Sunday, October 28.

Tracking the Storm.  To track the storm, keep checking here and here.  The"eye" of the storm is not always most powerful, so expect severe weather regardless, including high winds and significant rain during the event along with flooding during and after the event.

Staying Prepared.  You should have the following at your home:

  • A few days worth of canned/non-perishable food
  • Bottled water
  • Flashlight(s) (no candles)
  • If you are in an evacuation zone AND the order has been given.  Please evacuate to family and friends or city shelters, which will be opened.
  • Keep someone informed of where you are at all times.
  • Things to do!

Life-Threatening Emergency?  Call 911.  If you have any additional questions or concerns, please let me know via email, text or phone and I will help as best as possible.

NYU is closed for Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30.

Hurricane #Sandy Geotagged Social Media Maps w/Photos...Thanks @Geofeedia!

Geofeedia is releasing a number of regional maps that aggregate geotagged social media such as photos and videos on a map.  I highly recommend checking this out for real time visual information. Here is the message from Geofeedia...

Since the storm is expected to hit a large geographic area, we have created several regional Geofeeds which should help you to hone in on your particular areas of interest.

Here are a couple of other hints and suggestions as you cover the storm:

1. Draw your own smaller, more-targeted Geofeeds. These will leverage the data Geofeedia is already discovering in the background.

2. Want to see more photos? Turn off Twitter under the settings menu. There are A LOT of photos, but the significant volume of tweets can sometimes push them down in the queue.

Westchester and Fairfield Counties, New York

Staten Island and Jersey City


New York Boroughs

Philadelphia and Atlantic City

Ocean City and Cape May, NJ

Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA

To all of our customers and friends on the East Coast, good luck and stay safe.

Best regards,

The Geofeedia Team