Partners to explore how Social Media Technologies can Support Disaster Recovery Efforts

CCG Hovercraft Siyay

Defence Research and Development Canada Canadian Red Cross to co-host Digital Volunteer-Support Recovery Operations Experiment

November 19, 2014

OTTAWA — The 2010 earthquake in Haiti and other recent disasters have highlighted the important role that social media and “digital volunteers” can play in supporting emergency response and recovery efforts.

Social media provides emergency management organizations with an opportunity to connect with the public, and reach people quickly with alerts, warnings and preparedness messages. It also provides “digital volunteers” with a rich source of information posted by the public experiencing the disaster. This information can be harnessed to create situational awareness products to help emergency management officials and first responders gain a better understanding of what is happening on the ground (for example, by creating a map that indicates the location of injured people and damaged buildings).

In recognition of the ever-increasing role of social media in these situations, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) will co-host the Digital Volunteer-Supported Recovery Operations Experiment, in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross Disaster Management Forum in Halifax from November 18 to 20, 2014.

The experiment, funded through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, is one of the activities under the broader Canada-U.S Resiliency Experiment, known as CAUSE III. It will bring together government officials, first responders, humanitarian and not-for-profit workers, and digital volunteers from across Canada and the United States to explore how the emergency management community can partner with digital volunteers to strengthen their capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

Quick Facts

· The Digital Volunteer Experiment is a collaborative effort between DRDC’s Centre for Security Science and the Canadian Red Cross, also supported by the American Red Cross. Partners include Public Safety Canada, Halifax Regional Municipality, the Province of Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office, and Virtual Volunteer Groups, including CrisisCommons and the Canadian Virtual Operations Support Team.

· During the Experiment, stakeholders and digital volunteers from the United States will also be engaged to demonstrate the effectiveness of cross-border coordination. This includes participants from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, its Virtual Social Media Working Group and associated partners, as well as other key stakeholders from the first responder community and private sector.

· The Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) is led by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.

· The CSSP’s mission is to strengthen Canada’s ability to anticipate, prevent/mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism, crime, natural disasters, and serious accidents through the convergence of Science and Technology (S&T) with policy, operations and intelligence.

· DRDC is the national leader in defence and security science and technology. As an agency of Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND), DRDC provides the DND, the Canadian Armed Forces and other government departments as well as the public safety and national security communities with the knowledge and technology advantage needed to defend and protect Canada’s interests at home and abroad.

· Public Safety Canada’s mandate is to keep Canadians safe from a range of risks such as natural disasters, crime and terrorism. Public Safety works with all levels of government, first responders, community groups, the private sector and other nations, on national security, border strategies, countering crime and emergency management issues and other safety and security initiatives.


“Social media is changing how we approach certain aspects of safety and security. We are very proud to be partnering with leaders and with the community in this domain to collaboratively advance the knowledge and operational capability in the use of social media for emergency management in Canada.”

Dr. Marc Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister (S&T), Department of National Defence

“This experiment will provide us with important information about how we can leverage the power of social media to engage partners from different sectors, right down to the individual level. This sense of collaboration is a key element for the way forward for a whole-of-community approach to emergency management.”

Shawn Tupper, Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Public Safety Canada

“Social media is an invaluable communications tool and one that we can better use during times of an emergency to get information out as well as track what is happening on the ground. This experiment enables us to explore these opportunities to better understand and use social media.”

Andy Lathem, Executive Director, Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office

“The impact of social media increases exponentially with each new disaster or emergency. This experiment in tandem with our Disaster Management Forum in Halifax will give our participants a clearer understanding of the ways in which digital volunteers are a resource they can tap.”

John L. Byrne, Director General, Disaster Management, Canadian Red Cross


Associated Links

About the Digital Volunteer-Supported Recovery Operations Experiment

About the Canadian Safety and Security Program

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