Weather Ready Nation Ambassador for Winter Storm #Juno

Weather Ready Nation Ambassadors

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S.

Heavy snow, strong winds, and blizzard conditions are forecast Monday into earlyWednesday from the NYC metro area up into the Boston metro area, with snow as far south as Washington, D.C.  This storm will likely cause dangerous travel conditions, power outages, and coastal flooding.



Please share the graphics below in email and social media pushes to reach those you know who may find them helpful.
Keep up with the latest forecasts and warnings at and NWS social media:
Also, please remind the public of the hazards associated with winter weather at:
Thanks to all #WRN Ambassador organizations helping to build a Weather-Ready Nation and the WRN Team.
 p.s. If you’re on Twitter, also check out and share this top VOSG post of 2014:  How to Tweet Responsibly in Severe Weather.

Junior VOST: Guidelines for an Under 18 Program


Recently, the #SMEM and #VOST communities were presented with a new VOST Volunteer initiative for under 18s, a wonderfully innovative idea, but one that raises concerns about involving children in supporting official response agencies during all phases of the disaster life cycle.

Research clearly shows risks to children and teens from exposure to visual materials that can trigger a strong visceral reaction, yet Virtual Operations Support Teams routinely tasked with monitoring social media in an emergency or disaster situation cannot control the material to which they are exposed in the live stream. Once something is seen, it can’t be unseen.

This paper aims to:

  1. help agencies and organizations address key issues related to the participation of youth and children in VOST missions, including monitoring social media accounts.
  2. raise awareness of the science and research about the risks to children, and
  3. establish responsible and safe VOST policy guidelines to recommend to those considering a Junior VOST or community youth volunteer program as part of their social media emergency management strategy.

The Science

Carol Dunn is a Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist who specializes in raising awareness of the implications of current findings related to cognitive neurology and how organizations deal with and communicate risk. She has put together the following collection of research work and articles to assist planning decisions:

From the moment you see the first image you are changed for good .… But where law enforcement has developed specialized programs and hires experienced mental health professionals …. many tech companies have yet to grasp the seriousness of the problem.

  • Previous exposure to traumatic situations has been found to increase risk of long term brain changes, so even if individuals don’t respond negatively in the short term, the situations they are exposed to today can play a role in later trauma.

Potential Benefits of Junior VOST

We also recognize that volunteering at a young age has been found to: promote a healthy lifestyle and choices, enhance development, teach life skills, improve the community, and encourage a lifelong service ethic. (source) Therefore, it is not our intention to squelch student VOSTs, but to ensure that programs operate with full awareness of the risks.

The same good management techniques apply to children as to adults. However, they may need to be modified or adapted to appropriately relate to children.

The VOSG seeks to ensure the highest standards of safety to everyone under any program we are asked to endorse or recommend.  With this in mind, we have outlined a suggested program that we think would provide a good model for how to incorporate student volunteers appropriately within a Virtual Operations Support Team.

Examples given are for guidance purposes only; responsibility lies with the Agency or Organization managing the VOST or student program.

Example Junior VOST Program Outline

The team’s purpose, objectives and goals are outlined in an age appropriate way to maximize youth opportunities and the community vision for team growth and progression towards joining a professional team when old enough (18+).

This program is designed to mitigate risk to children by aligning the Junior VOST more closely with a “Preparedness VOST” than any other phase in the disaster life cycle, with some activities and tasks explicitly excluded that a fully operational VOST would engage in when deployed during a disaster to support an overwhelmed or under resourced agency.

Team members may not be placed in a situation where they could be exposed to the risks and stress that even hardened digital first responders often find challenging, such as a situation with fatalities.

Students are encouraged to participate in live VOST Exercises using benign events, such as a sports game, to become familiar with how to use social media and to communicate with authorities should a real live emergency be presented to them during their day-to-day activities or as a survivor of an incident in which they are directly impacted.

With this in mind, we strongly recommend any mission that includes minors explicitly excludes monitoring the live stream in a real emergency or disaster situation, allocating such tasks only to a professional social media monitoring team or VOST comprising adults with more advanced training.

To manage risk, Junior VOST missions and tasks are classified prior to activation using a common rating system and re-evaluated during operations should unforeseen escalations occur.

Parents and guardians are asked to sign a waiver and are given information about what is involved.

Example Junior VOST Program Values

  • Educating and acquainting the student with a modified, age-appropriate VOST environment, encouraging an interest in using social media for emergency management (SMEM) and fostering future leadership.
  • Recognizing that service of Junior VOST volunteers is both needed and appreciated.
  • Recognizing that serving as a VOST volunteer is a privilege and carries great responsibility.
  • Acknowledging that a Junior VOST cannot replace or replicate an adult team.
  • Encouraging students who are responsible, dependable, caring, have the ability to follow direction, and who can provide high quality support service to our professional teams, and eventually, join them.

Example Mission Rating System

  • G: General – All Ages
  • PG: Adult Supervision and Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.
  • PG-13: Adult Supervision and Guidance Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.
  • R: Restricted. Under 18 Requires Adult Supervision and Guidance.
  • NC-18: No One Under 18 Authorized To Support Mission

Children are closely supervised and any escalation that presents during an activation triggers re-evaluation of the mission for appropriateness to the age group.

Example Junior VOST Tasks

Selected tasks that might be safely allocated to a Junior VOST team, grouped by phase. Each task would be rated for age appropriateness.


  • Create VOST workbook templates and populate with search strings, key websites and resources, ready for use.
  • Create “Lay of the Land” lists of official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • Create or source local community maps to mark emergency related resources – shelter locations, hospitals, school etc.
  • Monitor app use in the local community and keep the Agency informed of new apps and trends of interest, especially in use amongst youth.
  • Assist and support Preparedness Messaging: Junior VOST could pull together fact sheets on all-hazards events and possibly assist in breaking those down into social media messages to be available for PIOs to use. This age group might also assist with official preparedness accounts such as @ReadyColorado messaging or monitoring instead of the operational @COEmergency side of the house.
  • Help build Community Resilience by promoting the use of SMS alerts, Code Red, etc.
  • Tech support: Help professional EM staff gain a better understanding of the world of social media, set up systems and troubleshoot tech issues.
  • Prepare a coordination summary for Junior VOST reporting of 911 type issues.

Response and Recovery:

  • Junior VOSTs are not engaged during the response phase of an emergency or disaster situation due to high stress levels and risk of trauma involved in routine VOST monitoring activities.
  • A Junior VOST may be able to assist with some limited recovery tasks where pre-filtered feeds can be determined as suitable content, such as sorting, categorizing, or mapping, including identifying volunteer opportunities.
  • At no time should a Junior VOST member be asked to monitor live unfiltered feeds while an emergency response is ongoing, neither to help identify 911 issues on social media, nor prepare official reports.

Important issues that also need careful consideration, but have not been addressed here for reasons of length, include liability and accountability.

Authors and Contributors: Joanna Lane, Carol Dunn, Kim Stephens, Caroline Milligan, Nathan Hunerwadel, Micki Trost.


Junior VOST – Guidelines for an Under 18 Program by The Virtual Operations Support Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Verion español aquí

VOST Victoria Operations Update – December 2014

Check out this great year end summary about Australia’s VOST Victoria by Team Lead Brad Lemon @tyabblemons @VOSTVic

Virtual operations Support Team Logo for VOST Victoria (Australia)

We face a unique fire risk in Victoria. Every day during the summer season, fires run across our great state. Wildfire activity peaks from around 1 pm to 8 pm every day.
Multiple fires must be tracked and their potential to impact on humanity assessed. The challenge of dealing with an overwhelming amount of simultaneous jobs tests our volunteers.

VOST Victoria has evolved a unique workflow in order to make the best use of time for our limited amount of volunteers. A Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM) volunteer is highly skilled. Such people are rare, and we are lucky to have Adam, Daniel, and Brad working as a team to engage in SMEM on Twitter, and also do our best to record key Twitter traffic during chaotic jobs.

Common scenarios

While VOST Victoria does deal with all types of emergencies, one of the most frighteningly common scenarios we face is that of a bushfire reaching the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI). When this occurs, there is an overwhelming volume of traffic on social media as populated areas come under threat. We try to collate this traffic and extract tweets with important information, and we forward this on to authorities for analysis. Our SMEM operators find themselves under the pump.

Our target audience

VOST Victoria is not designed to provide information to the general public. Information tweeted by the @VOSTVic Twitter account and posted on Facebook is aimed at other SMEM operators, to help them get quality information to the public in a timely manner, and keep us all on the same page. VOST volunteers perform SMEM under their own names using their own personal accounts.
We use ‘job notes’ to get information about an individual event to our registered clients. Each job note covers a single job, and (as of this season) these are now indexed on our operations website. Our clients receive email notification of new job notes as they are created. We try to run this process in as close to real-time as we can get.


In the event of catastrophe, VOST Victoria can call on the international VOST community in order to upscale. To do this, we use a common workbook, which enables many operators to work on a single disaster. International VOST bring a range of specialist skills to assist in the event of disaster in Victoria. VOST Victoria is a member of the VOST Leadership Coalition.


We have two volunteers in our Recovery section, who are not involved with any recovery projects at this time. We have systems in place to try to help with recovery, and we hope to expand on our role as the opportunity presents itself.

Animal Welfare

We have another two volunteers in our Animal Welfare section. We are working with other NGOs to try help Victorians deal with animals during emergencies. We have found that the public seek help in managing livestock and pets using all methods – including social media. The Animal Welfare team aims to help get information through to the right people.


Our most valuable assets are our highly skilled volunteers. Our members do an incredible job 24/7, every day of the year. Our biggest challenge is volunteer retention (volunteers are constantly in high-stress situations, and we experience volunteer burn-out)! We are always seeking volunteers, and we’ve learned not to throw new people in at the deep end. There is no minimum commitment. Becoming a volunteer for VOST Victoria is now as easy as joining a Google Hangout, and we provide all training. You will progress at your own pace, and contribute only what you feel comfortable with. Please consider joining our team of five?


VOST Victoria has received limited funding from Hastings MP Neale Burgess, who consulted with us to help with social media prior to the 2014 state election in Victoria. Neale’s support, has made it possible for VOST Victoria to operate over the 2014/15 season. We have received no funding from any other source. VOST volunteers have generally paid for their own equipment and software, etc. VOST Victoria has no employees, and makes no profit.


It should be noted that VOST Victoria has established its own systems and workflows, although we are integrated with the international VOST community. VOST Victoria have a limited number of volunteers who work to collate quality information about emergencies and disasters. We can upscale by calling on the international VOST community for assistance in the event of catastrophe. VOST Victoria volunteers are active in many areas of emergency information management, and provide SMEM services on social media. We also feed information back to authorities and other clients.

More information

For further information about VOST Victoria, or if you’re thinking of joining VOST Vic in Australia, send email to:  vostvic at gmail dot com or use the contact form here. 


Reblogged from an Original Article by Brad lemon posted here: