VOST Panama News

HEAD VOSTpaAfter four and a half months of training, Panama VOST, the Equipos de Voluntarios Virtuales Panama, has reached satisfactory goals for all of us in this group.

Rapid growth has taken place in Panama, both urban development and population, resulting in an increase in emergencies. This has driven the need to use other, less conventional means to liaise between the site of the emergency, the user or restigo and systems answer, in order to shorten the time to respond.

To date more than 48 volunteers are involved in coordinating, reporting, monitoring and dissemination of information, basically aimed at emergency issues, disaster prevention and risk across the country. Virtual Operations Support Team members are monitoring large scale international events simultaneously, virtually 24 hours, 7 days a week.

The group is made up of professionals from different specialties, amongst which are:

  • architects
  • doctors
  • industrial engineers
  • paramedics
  • journalists
  • risk specialists
  • administrators
  • meteorologists
  • systems specialists

VOST Panama also includes social networking NGO volunteer staff from the Fire Department of Panama, the Panamanian Red Cross and senior management of the National System of Protection Civil and ADD 911. Additionally, VOST Panama is coordinating with the Logistic Officer for the International Federation of Red Cross in Panama and Community Manager of the local Red Cross sharing their virtual conference room for crisis management and remote meetings.

Monitoring Activities

URL Live Map Link: http://bit.ly/VOSTPAMap


Emergencies that VOST Panama has supported include:

  • Monitoring of flooded areas in the metropolitan area and provinces of the country.
  • Monitoring and tracking of traffic accidents, channeling aid required for emergency services.
  • Pacific Tsunami warning: Monitoring and following earthquake in Chile generated tsunami warning for the Pacific, where the population focused on this case and rumors were fought.
  • Severe Weather: Daily monitoring of the meteorological state in the country. Amplifying early warnings.
  • Coordination of air transportation of patients from distant points requiring medical attention in the capital of the country.
  • Support for Emergency Operations Center during Carnival and Easter events, which take place over several days of national holidays, with people moving to different parts of the country.
  • Presidential elections: Monitoring emergency situations during the month of May 2014
  • Water pollution crisis: Sourced in the region of Azuero, 11 day operation monitoring and disseminating official information of response actions to this crisis.
  • Wildlife Authorities: Monitoring and coordinating information about turtles, lizards and other wildlife on roads and homes with the national environmental authority to undertake the relocation of these animals.
  • Association of Disappeared Panama Cooperation Agreement Established to assist in the dissemination of alert messaging and information about missing persons throughout the country.
  • Collaboration with the Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO in the dissemination of informational Tsunami alerts in our region.

VOST Panama is currently working on the regionalization of teams, initially in 3 provinces, in addition to the capital.

For more information about VOST Panama, follow the team Twitter: @VOSTPanama and website: http://vostpanama.blogspot.com/

By Juan Magaña

Translation support by Joanna Lane

July 25, 2014



Unique #VOST Resource

The Virtual Operations Support Group (VOSG) is a unique resource for those seeking to build a Virtual Operations Support Team to harness the power of social media for emergency management – it’s full of free resources on what we all want in life … increase our capacity and understanding to harness the power of social media to help save life and preserve property in an emergency or disaster, especially in our own location. It’s the issue of our time.

The idea behind VOSG is that between us we must know everything there is to know about using virtual operations support teams to support emergency management – it’s just a question of getting together to discuss it and share. For that purpose we have this site for virtual participation and to coordinate documentation and archives for monthly conference calls in the US and other parts of the world, including through the VOST Leadership Coalition, or VLC.

This site draws many to explore VOST possibilities worldwide. On this site you can register your interest as an individual or as a team, share your know-how with others in a similar situation through articles, guest posts, shared documentation, VLC meetings and next, a forum. On this site, you can access useful #SMEM and #VOST links and resources, not just from one provider, but from many. And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, you can send a request for information and we’ll reach out to our members and partners to help you progress collaboratively. On this site, you’re not alone – there are many in your situation.

The use of this site is free. Recently, the site has been throttled back by the host due to excessive traffic, restricting access globally. Today, I increased the site bandwidth, freeing up VOST information for everyone’s benefit.

Take care, be safe

Joanna Lane

Editor, The Virtual Operations Support Group

The “V” Word

Guest Post by Cheryl Bledsoe SM4EMFSU_VOST

You may have read another great article this past week in Emergency Management Magazine about the Virtual Operation Support Team concept and its implementation at Florida State University.

I loved reading about how FSU is harnessing the power of students to monitor social media, but I want to talk, for a moment about the “V” in VOST.

VOST stands for “Virtual Operations Support Team” though often the V is misunderstood to mean “volunteer.”

And although many of the present VOST team members across the world are doing so in a “volunteer” capacity, it is important to note that this type of resource may or may not necessarily engage volunteers.

Having worked within the VOST community over the past 2 years, here is what I have observed:

  • VOST Teams can be comprised of folks from a variety of backgrounds including intel analysts, public information officers, emergency managers, college students and social media savvy & interested community supporters,
  • If you have a solid presence and ties in social media, it will be easier to find VOST members who will support your missions,
  • Nearly every after-action report for VOST teams identifies the need to recruit and train more members for VOST teams, and
  • VOST Missions that require more than 1-2 people AND exceeds 2-3 days may struggle to find volunteer commitment (because many prospective volunteers have other full-time jobs and/or commitments)

VOST teams are very similar in nature to deployable Communication Unit Leaders but in a virtual context.  Nationally, we don’t aim to recruit COM-L staff from only volunteer ranks.  In fact, most COM-L positions are cross-trained from within 9-1-1 communications and our public safety communities.

If you are interested in establishing a VOST team for your local community, I’d encourage you to recruit team members from a number of positions that have a relationship to social media, public information and situational awareness.

Someday, social media monitoring will be as natural as using our email on a daily basis.  But until that day exists, agencies that aim to utilize VOST teams to monitor and engage in the social sphere need to remember that V means VIRTUAL and not necessary VOLUNTEER.

You’re lucky if you have access to volunteers who can support your VOST capability, but it’s time to understand that you’re limiting your team if you aim to sustain this capacity solely on the backs of your supportive volunteers.

Este artículo también ha reblogueado en español aquí par @iRescate: #VOST no deberían nutrirse solo de voluntarios, señala @CherylBle http://bit.ly/1jxDJFA