The possibility of 4G

It is important to take note of the possibility of 4G.  A T1 circuit is 1½ Mbit/s.  The minimum 4G standard of 100 Mbit/s is 66 times larger.  Take a look at the graphic posted on my blog at for a better understanding of this.  A cell phone running true 4G will have more bandwidth then an entire site serviced by a T1.  We are right on the verge of a major cellular service shift.  When setting up a site during a disaster, it is common to use one cellular data card (aka aircard) per computer.  With these faster speeds, we can use one cellular data card to be the head of the site’s network.

My team has already successfully setup a network in a disaster with one 4G aircard providing connectivity for 30 computers.  Granted it was rare that there were users on all 30 computers simultaneously surfing the net and streaming large files.  But, that’s the point during disasters — and really even day to day.  It isn’t about providing maximum bandwidth to each user all the time.  Instead, focus on load balancing to provide enough bandwidth to meet the combined average need ~90% of the time.  It is ok for the system to be a little slower during peak demand times.  Set the user’s expectations correctly, and your team will get through it.

A cellular connection could be used to back up a wireline circuit.  Advanced routers can handle multiple uplink connections with prioritization and failover settings.  This will provide redundancy.  It is better than two wireline circuits backing each other up when the backhoe cuts through the utility lines outside the building.  Redundancy is nice.  Diverse redundancy is better.

Your users in a disaster response will be on the computer only part of the time, with the rest of their time filled with other activities.  If a disaster responder travels to a location and spends the entire time behind a computer, then the question should be asked: could that person just stay in the office or at home to complete the same work?

If this interests you, take a look at this post.

Poor communications can even be blamed for the Dark Ages

Communication is vital.  It is the passing of information from one person to another.  This information can be a thought, a request, a need … anything at all.

An interesting though was put forth about communications in a historical show about the Dark Ages in Europe: after the plague and the Viking hordes, there were not enough people left living in Europe near each other to share ideas and spark creativity.  The Renaissance had to wait until the population rebounded to create a density of shared ideas.  Hence, the lack of communication held back the advancement of European civilization after the fall of Rome until the Renaissance.

If there was an after-action report on Europe in the Dark Ages, the blame would have been placed on poor communications. I wonder when that will stop being the centuries-old excuse and AAR’s start to get more fine-tuned at finger pointing to problems.

I’m not trying to sell this product, but if you want to know the show was “The Dark Ages” by the History Channel.

Social media nuts and bolts

There are many different platforms to conduct social engagement.  A working list of these can be found on Wikipedia (  We’re just going to review a few of the major social media sites used in the US as an introduction.

Facebook: By far the leader with market share, Facebook is home to 800 million registered users near the end of 2011.  If Facebook were a country, it would be third most populated country behind China (1.3 billion) and India (1.2 billion), and ahead of the United States (312 million).  11% of the world’s population is on Facebook.  The site allows users to friend other users in the system.  Most people have set their security to only share their posts with friends.  Friending someone is a two-way process.  One person asks and the other accepts.  Without this mutual agreement, people will not be linked.

Twitter: Micro-blogging is the hallmark of Twitter.  Posts are limited to 140 characters.  It forces users to be brief and trim down excess to make a point.  All tweets are default to public.  Although users can make their tweets private and approve each follower, it isn’t very common.  The open nature of Twitter allows anyone to find and read tweets about a topic.  Topics are tagged and linked through the use of hashtags (#) before the word.  Emergency managers should be keeping tabs on the #SMEM conversation.  SMEM is short for Social Media Emergency Management.  Anything can be a hashtag, and the use of a hashtag is decided by the people who use it.  The other special character is the at sign (@).  This precedes a user name to identify it as such, and tags the user in the post.  This will make the post show up as a mention to the user tagged in to.  The @-sign become so popular that it was added in Facebook to tag other users.  The #-sign also became popular and is now used in Google+ to tag content as searchable.  Following is a one-way process.  For the most part, you can follow anyone in Twitter without needing their permission.

LinkedIn: From the start, LinkedIn has been billed as the professional networking site.  It focuses on building relationships between people and leveraging professional networks.  It lacks the entertainment aspect of the other social media sites, which adds to the site’s focus for business professionals.  An emergency manager would not look to reach the public through LinkedIn; instead this site is a good technique to collaborate with other disaster, crisis and risk professionals.

MySpace: This was a popular social media site until the perception took a nose dive.  The site’s lack of controls and investigations around pornography and other illegal activities darkened the perception of the site.  The site wasn’t dynamic in keeping up with user demand.  Other sites, like Facebook, were more rapidly adapting to meet user demand which led to users leaving MySpace.  Revenue and users have been steadily declining.  I would not start a social media campaign on MySpace unless there is a very specific audience you are seeking that hasn’t left yet.

Google+: This is Google’s recent response to social networking.  While the newest of the sites reviewed here, they have learned from the mistakes of the others.  The privacy policy and security settings built into Google+ from the start clearly resemble the best of both Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve explained Google+ to people this way: “Twitter and Facebook went on a date. Nine months later, Google+ appeared.”  It allows wide public sharing like Twitter, but also has features to allow limited posts to user-designated circles.  A circle is like a bucket of followers so sharing isn’t an all or nothing deal.  A user can share with college friends but not family, or with co-workers but not the public.  It is more representative of how a personal naturally separates their friendships in time and space.

YouTube: YouTube is in the list because sharing videos is part of social media.  It is user-generated content that is published for others.  The best use that I’ve seen for YouTube is in conjunction with another social media channel.  Post video content to YouTube then send out the link through other medium.  A handheld video camera can be used to capture short—almost raw—video from leaders during a disaster and shared.  While other times and topics deserve to have a high-quality and edited video package; it is acceptable to have a more raw and uncut feeling video during a disaster.  Take note that a video that feels raw and uncut may have actually been captured through multiple takes and did get edited before it was posted.  It is common to see broadcast news services show breaking news video from handheld phones until they have time to get their equipment to the scene.

Flickr: Flicker by itself isn’t really a social media site except for pure photo documentaries.  Like YouTube, it is best used in conjunction with other medium to tell a full story.  Creating a photo album for a specific event allows you to keep using the same link to the album while updating the content of the album with new imagery.  Using the same link will keep users going consistently to the same place.  If they click on a link in an older message, they’ll still be taken to current content.

Pam Dyer compiled a whole bunch of social media infographics at  Some have a high degree of bias or slightly out of date, but all-in-all it is a pretty decent review of the sites and public perception.


Here’s a few notes.  Watch this spot for information on showing the power and expectations of social media in disasters.

How much has internet usage changed in the last 10 years?

Who’s online?

What do people do everyday on the Internet? and

Why Americans use social media? (2011)


How big is social media?  This slide deck give a quick overview.  Is the most recent in a series of three.

What is the expectation of social media users when it comes to disasters?  The infographic is at (2010) Make certain you review slide 14.

A longer version with more details is at


Other notes:

How many people and households have cell phones?

What age ranges own what tech? and





IAEM conference summed up by Twitter

I’ve reviewed the tweets during the IAEM Conference in an effort to pull out the ones that best flavor the conversations occuring in the sessions.  This is a step beyond the capture that is documented here.  Instead of a normal summary of the conference that I’d provide to share learning with others, this time I’m letting Twitter do the talking.  Here’s my list of tweets.  Let me know if you think I missed some.

Continue reading IAEM conference summed up by Twitter

Twitter during the IAEM conference

The following was originally posted to the IAEM LinkedIn group.  We have a long way to go when >2500 people attend a conference but only 140 were active on social media.  A conference like IAEM is a great place for people to pratice.


There were some really good discussions occurring on Twitter during the IAEM conference under the hash tag #IAEM….

Oh, what is a hash tag? That’s a way to pull a series of tweets on Twitter together as one on-going conversation. A hash tag always starts with a “#” and contains no spaces. The hashtag is simply included in a tweet to make it visible to others following the conversation. Continue reading Twitter during the IAEM conference

Social Engagement Guerilla Marketing

So I’m sitting at the lunch for IAEM and Hal (@Hal_Grieb) tweets me “Psssttt…. @KRobertoryIAEM look behind you. #iaem”

Let’s step back a few minutes before this.  Hal was on his handheld watching the twitter stream during the lunch speaker.  The person next to him asked what he was doing.  Hal explained it and the person replied that they just didn’t get social media and Twitter.  Struck with inspiration, Hal snapped a picture, tweeted it and told the guy to watch this.  Within a minute, the image was up on my laptop.  They watched me open the picture, study it a minute and then turn around.  I waived at him and looked quizzically.  Continue reading Social Engagement Guerilla Marketing

#IAEM Tweets

@AnaheimCERT gave me a great idea to use to capture all the tweets for the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference.  There were so many tweets over the conference that I had to make a series of documents. 

Each document is the end of the date range.  So, Nov 14 is really all the tweets up to but not including Nov 14.  It starts at midnight and goes backwards.  While reading chronologically backwards isn’t my preference, it’s a limitation of the service.  Who am I to complain about a free service?

Continue reading #IAEM Tweets

Initial thoughts on the IAEM conference

IAEM 2011 Conference logoThe International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference has ended and I’ll be flying out in the morning.  Here’s a couple random thoughts from the conference.

There was a lot more use of Twitter at this conference then before.  That’s a good thing, but still not enough.  I don’t have the exact numbers of people tweeting at this conference but it was far shy of the ~2800 attendees.  I’d guess about 20 really active and maybe 50 or so total.

Continue reading Initial thoughts on the IAEM conference

Conference specific Twitter handles?

The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference is next week.  Normally, conferences are a time where my number of tweets per day skyrocket as I hear interesting things and try to bring the essence of the conference to people in the Twitterverse.  The problem is that my regular followers on Twitter can get overwhelmed and turned off by the huge increase in tweets.  Continue reading Conference specific Twitter handles?

Halloween Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom from my friend Annette G.

Tonight a lot of creatures will visit your door. Be open minded.

The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy might have poor fine motor skills.

The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy might have motor planning issues.

The child who does not say trick or treat or thank you might be shy or non-verbal.

The child who looks disappointed when he sees your bowl might have an allergy.

The child who isn’t wearing a costume at all might have SPD or autism.

Be nice. Be patient. Its everyone’s Halloween…