SLA 2011: Responding to a Crisis: How the Right Information Aids Survival

NEED to KNOW SESSION: Responding to a Crisis: How the Right Information Aids Survival

Marlene Vogelsang · Resource Specialist , PG&E
Anne Hall · Librarian/Archivist , Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco
Michael McDonald · Director, Center for Health Security and Infrastructure , University of Maryland, School of Public Health
Leigh Montgomery · Librarian , Christian Science Monitor

Pacific Gas and Electric librarian Marlene Vogelsang: San Bruno gas explosion/Glenview fire -> immediately set up a crisis response center in the neighborhood. Respond to the near- and long-term needs of the family. No one was paying attention to who lived in the neighborhood or what kind of aid had already been given. While the librarian was in the neighborhood, her management decided she should serve on a “committee of angels” chosen to care for the families. Named relationship managers/guardian angels. Homes tagged with colors to reflect damage. She is caring for four red-tagged families–the worst level of damage. She realized quickly her role was going to be that of an information resource. How can they file for damages with PG&E? How can they check on their claim? What about other insurance? What about medical care? PG&E gave the families no-strings-attached checks to help their recovery efforts.

They came up with lists of people and businesses impacted, then tried to find where the people went. Where did they go? What did they need? How can PG&E help? Temporary housing, gift cards …

New information needs -> new resources. What info can PG&E share?
pipeline location information: gaspipelinesafety website -> proactive letters to customers to let them know if they’re within 200 feet of a gas pipeline maps
pipeline maintenance records: NTSB/CPUC (public utilities commission) requested them and PG&E couldn’t respond in a timely fashion -> No one had really tracked that information systematically. Boxes of records moved around from warehouse to warehouse. People ended up searching through old boxes to try to find records. Digitization effort underway now.
records management issues
regulatory compliance information needs
company-wide oversight

One of her families has almost finished remodeling and will move back in in July.

They weren’t future-ready. She feels they’re in a better place now.

Anne Hall: The Federal Reserve Bank dealt with some major crises during the recent financial crisis: banks being insolvent, major financial firms having problems.

When are librarians “allowed” to participate in what’s happening? Lots of closed-door meetings during crises. Managers don’t always think librarians can help. How can the library know what kind of info needs exist and how to address them if they’re excluded?

Crises have different cycles. External events impact the organization in different ways. The library may be pulled into new, unfamiliar, and possibly uncomfortable roles.

Regular daily news briefing from the library became even more important during the financial crisis. Instead of including everything, they would pick the best articles, then point people to more reading. People already were used to getting the briefing. Why do something new/different during the crisis? Some colleagues did multiple versions during the day instead of just one.

The librarians realized the general public wanted to know a lot of the information being passed around internally. What can they share publicly? What information should they provide? What resources would be appropriate? Added more information to the website.

Moving forward, the librarians are much more welcome to join crises efforts from the start and contribute to information needs.

Michael McDonald: began by asking if any of us handled the information needs of voodoo priests or people during insurrections. Utilizing Resilience Systems under Crisis Conditions: Enabling Business Continuity during Complex Disasters. During a cholera epidemic, they had to inform the people that cholera is not a curse someone put on children, but was a real disease. People were lynching others because of the thought of murder. He spent time in Port Au Prince and is now working with a team in Japan that will have to deal with radiation.

Objectives for complex disaster management:
*develop a strategy for using social media and the 24-hour news cycle
*engage collaborative infrastructure for risk management
*enable fifth generation management

Crowd sourcing in Haiti allowed them to quickly figure out where there were water problems, food shortages, people still trapped in rubble. Reverse crowd source to spread information about clean water sources, where to get food, etc.

Resilience system:
5th generation command:
1: conflicting mission environment
2: deconflicting
3: synergistic
4: netcentric (with hierarchies)
5: complex adaptive systems

anticipatory science base: What crises have happened here before? What can we learn from them?

Medical and public health communities need to share more information.

Game simulations

Leigh Montgomery: how the Christian Science Monitor responds to the crises the other panelists addressed. In 2008, the Monitor had 54 articles about the Fed. The five year average is usually about 30 articles. Monetary policy coverage was not a priority for the news organization until it became a top public concern and politically charged. During this time, the Monitor began moving toward an Internet-only publishing model. Leigh had been working on internal resources, like a timeline, when she realized they would be better served making that public. More than just the five people in the newsroom working on the stories would benefit from the information.

Gas pipeline explosion: public wants to know: how often does this happen? when was the last time it happened? how likely is it to happen? what is being done to prevent future calamities? what can I do to protect myself? how can I help others? Not the kind of situation they would have covered multiple times in print; the web gave them the freedom to produce more content.

Haiti earthquake: what’s happening? how can I help?

Japan: complex story, so multiple departments are involved; nuclear energy angles, data analysis

How do you crowd source when no phone/Internet infrastructure is part of the crisis?
Rebuild the networks first. Find workarounds.

How do you communicate with staff in the field?
It depends on their style.

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