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Designing Social Media Tools for Emergency Response

This is a completed project.

With the ubiquity of smartphones and the use of social media, people can share information with a population once reserved to traditional media (e.g. print, television, or radio). This combination has empowered citizens to use social media to share and disseminate information during emergencies, like the 2013 Southern Alberta floods and Bermuda Shorts Day 2014.

Social media’s increased use during emergencies presents an interesting challenge for emergency operations centre personnel who need to filter and assess information before deciding if, how, and when to act, often in parallel with handling information from other sources. Though commercial tools exist, they are not designed with emergency management personnel in mind.

This thesis presents Piu, a Twitter-based social media tool supporting both emergency planning and emergency response phases of emergency management. Piu was designed, built, and subsequently evaluated through a series interviews with emergency operations, campus security, and crisis communication experts.