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Free Training Opportunities at Emergency Services Show in September 2013

July 11, 2013 in News


Wednesday 25 September – Thursday 26 September 2013
Halls 17 and 18 and outdoor event area, NEC, Birmingham

As well as bringing key training institutions and equipment providers under one roof, The Emergency Services Show (25 and 26 September at the NEC, Birmingham) provides visitors with free onsite training opportunities in first aid, water and roadside rescue.

The growing exhibition for emergency responders has attracted the most respected training providers in the industry including The Serco Combined Resilience Team, Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service Training Academy, Durham Constabulary’s nationally approved (College of Policing) firearms training facility, the Tactical Training Centre, and the NHS Ambulance Service First Aid Training consortia (NASFAT).

Free workshops on offer at the show include 30-minute Continual Professional Development (CPD) sessions run by the College of Paramedics, covering a range of topics from advanced life support to breech birth emergencies. Although designed to help paramedics keep abreast of the latest developments affecting professional practice, other emergency, health and care professions including the police and fire service, will find these sessions equally beneficial. All attendees will be provided with CPD certificates for inclusion in their portfolios. Physio Control will also be running educational sessions on resuscitation and emergency care.

Healthcare professionals visiting the CPDme stand can sign up for 12 months free membership of the online portfolio-building service, designed for maintaining CPD logs. They will also receive a free download of the new CPDme APP which enables users to build a print ready portfolio as well as search, find and book development courses, conferences and training right from their mobile or hand held device.

Fire and Rescue Services are invited to attend the recovery demonstrations organised by The Road Haulage (RHA) Association who have also joined forces with the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) to produce a DVD raising awareness of livestock transportation incidents and the key issues facing emergency responders. Copies of the DVD, which includes case studies from fire and rescue service personnel and a large animal veterinarian, will be available to visitors at The Emergency Services Show.

The nationally-adopted six phase HGV rescue approach will be demonstrated on the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service stand, using the The Ex-Tractor, an HGV “transformer.” Meanwhile CFOA CNR, SARbot UK Underwater Rescue, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Diving Team, and West Midlands Fire & Rescue will be running demonstrations of water rescue in the Pendigo Lake at the NEC.

The Environment Agency will be attending this year’s Emergency Services Show to provide up to date information on the environmental impacts of fire fighting foam, air quality monitoring in major incidents, flood incident management and to demonstrate pollution protection equipment.

Many training equipment providers are also exhibiting including training manikin manufacturer, Ruth Lee. Visitors to the stand can see demonstrations of its new handcuff training manikin (developed following an enquiry from the personal safety training team at Sussex Police) and the new body recovery manikin aimed at police underwater search and recovery teams.

The Emergency Services Show will feature over 350 companies showcasing the latest technology and initiatives focused on improving public safety and assisting all blue light services, voluntary workers and service providers.

“Nothing compares to physically handling new equipment and seeing how it can be used to its full potential. Keeping informed of the latest kit developments – including those that you may see other blue light services using when they attend incidents – is key to improved multi-agency working and should be part of every service’s training programme,” says event director for The Emergency Services Show, David Brown.

For more information on the show including online registration, details of free workshops and a full exhibitor list, please visit www.emergencyuk.com/pr11

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Social Media connecting people during an emergency

August 22, 2012 in Knowledge and Information Sharing, News

The following article has been written by Steph Jennings (@Essitam) about her personal experiences of the Christchurch 2011 Earthquake.

On September 4th 2010 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake ripped through the city of Christchurch, shaking people from their beds and while 2 people were seriously injured no one was killed, no buildings collapsed and while there were millions of dollars of structural damage, the city felt like it had dodged a bullet. Repair work and structural surveys were undertaken quickly and although the residents were still being shaken on a regular basis life quickly returned to normal.

I watched this all unfold from afar, reading the local news from sites such as the New Zealand Herald and TVNZ from my home here in the UK. At that point in time I’d never been to New Zealand but had, and still have, family out there. My uncle emigrated there in the 1980′s and is married with 3 children; Christchurch was their home so I was interested in staying up to date to check they were ok.

Photo: Geoftheref

In the months following Sept 4th hundreds of aftershocks rocked the city, small tremors were a daily, even an hourly occurrence, the most notable being a magnitude 4.9 on Boxing Day that caused yet more damage but again no deaths and things looked to be settling down. That was until February 22nd 2011.

At 12:51pm a 6.3 magnitude ripped the heart out of the city. It was the middle of the night here and I knew nothing of it until I sleepily switched on the UK breakfast news.

New Zealand is a quake prone area falling within the “pacific ring of fire” an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through the South Pacific. Small shakes are not an unusual occurrence there but quakes that make the headline news in the UK are. I knew this one was bad – I reached for my phone.

I managed to get through to my family first time, they sounded awful the call was brief and punctuated with the sound sirens in the background. My heart broke as listened to their shock as my family told us of the devastation around them and the damage to their home and of those that had lost their lives – I established that they were all still alive and relatively well and hung up, It was a small mercy that I have managed to get through to them at all, It was over a week before I managed to get through again. Twitter was my saviour.

As I was talking to my family on that initial morning I was already searching for any related news online and quickly discovered the hashtags that were most commonly being used by people in the city. I set up search streams for them, and any other words most likely related to the area in Hootsuite. I was determined that if I couldn’t speak to my family because their communication systems were down then I was going to be as informed as I could be to reassure myself that they were well.

GeoNet Project LogoI kept track of the location and severity of aftershocks via Geonet  (168 of them in the first 72 hours!!!) the depth and distance from the centre of the city allowing me to judge the likelihood of it affecting my family home any further. I talked to residents on the ground that were more than happy to share their experience and information from the stricken area. I quickly became very knowledgeable on the effects of quakes related to their depth vs distance from the epicentre, the geography on Christchurch and its suburbs and the damage liquefaction- when the shaking in the ground turns previously solid ground to liquid – can cause.

To begin with local residents used twitter as a cathartic release for people on the ground sharing their stories and to talk to anyone about the nightmare that was unfolding around them but soon there was a definitive shift from just talking and release towards information sharing and help offering. Residents from other areas of New Zealand were offering rooms for quake refugees to stay in. Locals were offering clean water and organising food drives but for me the most useful updates came from official accounts allowing me to be able to feel like I was doing something to help my family from the other side of the world.

Christchurch City Council, who had never been on twitter before set up an account and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority who set up their account after the 7th Sept quake reappeared. They quickly established which was the most commonly used hash tag #eqnz and quickly started picking up on news – retweeting really useful information and sending out their own updates.

I took note as telecommunication companies stopped all charges from their payphones to aid communications on the ground  and checked Google earth to find the nearest box to Uncles home, I listed the school gyms that ware opening to offer residents showers and found all the times the army would be on the beach pumping and purifying water from the sea to make it safe to drink. I found information about community rallies and EQC information points and food drops and much more – I took all this from the Council and CERA so when I finally managed to get through to my family again I didn’t feel so helpless, I had something useful to share with them, a lot of which they knew nothing about themselves having spent the week with no electricity, no plumbing and sleeping in their garden.


As well as all the information I was getting from the “official” sources I was still talking to people on the ground finding out what life was really like, getting the bits of information that are missed from news reports or that my family didn’t want to tell us in case we worried. Things weren’t great out there, so it was in awe I watched as out of the remains of the city an amazing community rose. Using twitter and other social platforms to coordinate themselves people in the west – who were not directly affected by the quake – were baking on mass and then walking the streets of the devastated eastern suburbs handing cakes, sandwiches and drinks to residents.

Farmy Army at work

Students led by Sam Johnson resurrected the Student Volunteer Army that had helped with the clean-up post September quake. Up to 1500 students walked the streets shovelling silt and liquefaction from peoples home. Farmers came together to form the Farmy Army and drove into the city on mass with trailers full of food to distribute and shovels in hand to help with the clean-up.

Individuals were driving in from all over the south island offering support and any help they could and people from all over both islands were using the #tag to offer rooms for people to stay in. They were stories of real people coming together, making difference to each other. I read of one family who after their house was destroyed opted to stay in the city, pitching a tent on a traffic island and woke every morning to find bread and fresh milk outside of their makeshift home. There were so many stories I wish I could share them all. It was heartening to see and to know I could relay these stories to my family giving them something, maybe hope, from so far away.

Imogen Heap - photo from stuff.co.nz align=While all this was going on we were also trying to do something practical to help. My partner James works with a musician Imogen Heap – she wanted to do something to help the area and as she was touring Australia she thought a charity concert actually in Christchrch would help but her Australian promoter didn’t think it would be appropriate, or welcome at that time, but we suspected otherwise.

Using twitter and the #eqnz tag we asked locals for their thoughts and finally got in touch with a local councillor, who we put in touch with Immi’s management to make it happen – bizarrely at the same time we happened to be in the country but as we were out backpacking we were unable to attend!

By the time I finally flew out there at the end of April I was well versed in the names of local councillors and service providers. I could talk with them knowledgably about zoning and the insurance processes and the ever changing road closures. I met with people I had been talking to online and I visited areas I’d read so much about and we experienced for ourselves the constant shakes and shudders that still shocked the city with a 5.1 shaking us from our beds at 3 o’clock in the morning. I had a greater respect for how they were living, understanding what all the locals meant when they kept referring to “the new normal” and the upmost respect for the authorities who were trying to deal with the mass scale of it all.

Returning home I continued to watch the #tag but with less urgency. The aftershocks appeared to be receeding and I’d seen for myself that my family were safe, then on June 13th just as everything appeared to be quietening down the city was once again shook to its core by a double whammy 2 huge aftershocks in quick succession, a 5.7 and a 6.3 which this time was just too much for my families home. Interior walls came crashing down around them and the whole house moved off its foundation and over an artisan well in their garden.

The subsequent months weren’t great for them, a crumbing house where it was too dangerous to go upstairs, rising damp from the well under their floorboards, a cold wet miserable winter spend sleeping on their kitchen floor and I became anxious again, scouring the internet to reassure myself they were ok so it was a relief when I discovered their insurance claim was being dealt with and they could start looking to the future.

They’ve since moved and bought a house and a cafe in the neighbouring town of Darfield. They are doing great, sad about leaving their family home but are moving forwards and are planning on opening a bed & breakfast in time for the next skiing season.

It was a rollercoaster few months for them and for the rest of the family who were so far away and unable to help, but thanks to social media making the world a much smaller place we were as informed as we could be in uncertain times.


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Getting volunteers to monitor digital spaces in emergencies

August 9, 2012 in Knowledge and Information Sharing, Operations, Volunteers

This is a Cross Post from Ben Proctor’s own blog.

There is a practice emerging in the USA called VOST (Virtual Operations Support Team). Emergency Managers in some areas are recruiting teams of volunteers to help out online in an emergency. For a quick introduction see this slideshow put together by Carolyne Milligan (@mm4marketing)


I wanted to find out what it was like working with a VOST so I had a chat with Cheryl Bledsoe from Washington (state not DC).

I started by asking her what day job is

Cheryl: I am the Emergency Manager for Clark County WA. I report to an Administrative Board and am the conduit between our elected officials and our first responders/emergency responder agencies.

During peace time, I have 6 staff who report to me and when emergencies strike, we bring in about 40-60 people from various agencies to assist and help coordinate emergency response. When we aren’t in emergencies, we’re planning for how we would respond and training our emergency responders and volunteers on the plans. Day-to-day, we deal with hazardous material situations, search & rescue and weather alerts. We’re also in charge of community preparedness.


Me: And you use social media?

Cheryl: We started using social media in 2008 after a flooding situation occurred near here and 3 ladies in a church started a blog and began posting truth and rumors which resulted in much publicity. Our agency began to realize that we needed to figure this stuff out. So, my staff now are trained in regular use of social media and it has been a huge benefit for in connecting with our local communities & residents.

We have blog at www.cresa911.blogspot.com, a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cresa.911 and two Twitter handles at @CRESA and @CRESATalk


Me: And you have a group of volunteers supporting you online: a VOST. Can you tell me what that brings you?

Cheryl: We are still freaked out about whether we will be able to manage the influx of information during a large-scale disaster which is why we began looking at the VOST concept. I had met Jeff Phillips several years ago who originated the concept and began participating on teams myself. I have served as an activator, team member, team leader and now am a team administrator for our CRESA VOST.


Me: And what do they actually do in an incident?

Cheryl: A VOST Team Activator for an emergency response agency defines the mission for the team.

For example this was the mission for a recent activation in Oklahoma
1) Watch these hashtags: #OKWX, #OKTwister #Oklahoma #Tornado for questions, concerns about the emergency response
2) Watch the National Weather Service Twitter accounts and retweet anything they say with timestamps.
3) Watch the community conversations & encourage regular timestamping of data….watch for old data
4) Collect any damage assessment pictures from the tornadoes with any specific geo-location data on those pictures if you can find it.
5) Watching the livestreaming news media for accuracy of reports


Me: It’s all very public. I think that might unnerve some emergency planners in the UK.

Cheryl: The only thing that is public is that it’s gathering public information into one place. You’ll notice that how Oklahoma was responding to the tornadoes isn’t listed anywhere in the work of the volunteers.

The VOST teams watch what is public and gather that into one filtered location so that an emergency manager can periodically check in and ensure that the emergency response is meeting the community concerns & expectations.


Me: So as an Emergency Manager is this really adding value to your work?

Cheryl: Yes! As an emergency manager, I’m way too busy to watch the internet. Prior to use of a VOST, we just simply wouldn’t listen to the community. We would connect with emergency response organizations and limit our engagement with those who would just call 911. That is a very limited view of the world and opens us up to all sorts of media scrutiny for perceived failures in the community. And we’ve had enough of those “respond to the media after the bad situation” moments.

Our engagement now leads the media to contact us first and those improved relationships have gone a long way to improving our community-based reputation.


Me: So where do VOST volunteers come from?

Cheryl: VOST folks are, at their core, trusted agents who can filter down what they see online for someone who is coordinating emergency response. Instead of having to watch the whole internet for how a situation is being reported or affecting the community, I can now touch base with a team leader who can tell me right away what the local community is concerned about.

Volunteers get the adrenaline rush that any of us get out of helping out their community. At their heart, people like to feel like they are in the “know” or the “thick of the action” and being able to watch the online community chatter about the event and feel like they can share good or valuable information taps into that “I’m helping” and makes folks feel good.


Me: Would there be circumstances when a VOST might not deploy or might not be appropriate: I’m thinking about the English riots say?

Cheryl: One of the key activation things for VOST teams is that they serve at the behest of either an Incident Commander (who is in the field) or an Emergency Manager (inside an EOC who serves in a support/coordination role). There is a little debate about whether VOST teams can or should self-deploy, but my fear with self-deployment is that the information that is collected may go nowhere and the work may be wasted.

There is always a role for individual VOST members to play in terms of encouraging people towards official information sources and encouraging good timestamping of socially shared information, but that is not really a VOST activation. There are some organizations like Red Cross, HELP Foundation, Humanity Road and Standby Taskforce which serve more of a recovery-based role and support community and humanitarian response, but that is a slightly different mission than VOST teams which focus on the Response hours of a crisis.


Me: If you had $1million to help with social media what would you spend it on?


  1. I would privatize the development of VOST teams so that they aren’t entirely reliant on volunteers because I don’t think it’s ultimately a sustainable model because it requires a fair amount of time and effort. Right now, we are reliant on volunteers as they are available. If demand exceeds availability, we will have a problem.
  2. Then I would set operational standards, training recommendations and consistent outcomes for team so that emergency responders could hire teams during their responses for limited duration response (they would monitor, share concerns and archive the social traffic)
  3. Then, I would establish regional teams and ensure quality assurance among the teams….This is my long-range vision for where this stuff needs to go to become a reliable resource to the emergency management community.

I wouldn’t waste money on tools….I’d let the private sector worry about that. Govt needs to be out of the tool-development game in my opinions. We’re too slow and really can’t keep up with the market.

Here in the states, I’d like to see VOST teams be placed into the national resource typing categories & standards so that they can become deployable assets. And through the VOST Leadership Coalition, I’m trying to softly encourage consistency of standards among our developing teams.

The failing of other large national volunteer groups is that too much ground-up development results in teams doing different things. The more this resource can be defined and developed, the more the public and communities will benefit from “in-touch” emergency responders.


You can find Cheryl on twitter at @cherylble.

There is a volunteer-led project to develop the VOST concept for the UK. To find out more, to help the project or to explore ways in which local responders can develop VOSTs visit
www.vostuk.org or tweet @vostuk.

VOSTUK is a member of the VOST Leadership Coalition.



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