Some of Spain’s worst wildfires in a decade (some say 30 years) left a trail of destruction in Valencia during the summer of 2012 across 123,553 acres, together with a firehose of harmful rumors and hoaxes scattered across the twitter-sphere. That’s almost 0.1% of Spain’s land mass impacted, proportionally equivalent to 20,700,000 acres burning in the US. Adding to the natural disaster, a hoax Twitter account filled the vacuum on social media to take top position as the “official” source of information, gathering some 400,000 followers, and worse. Undetected by Valencia 112, (equivalent of 911 in the US), the account was not shut down by authorities.
Louis Serrano Rodríguez (@LouisSerranoR), Press Chief for Madrid 112 Emergency Communications and Public Information Officer, had blogged about the success of the VOST effort in the US and called for the development of Virtual Operation Support Teams in Spain. VOST Spain was born from these events.
Head of Civil Protection Puente Genil (Córdoba), Rafael Gálvez Rivas (@GalvezRivas), Coordinator of Civil Protection in Córdoba, Wildfire Analyst Jokin Zubieta (@jzbilbao) and other Spanish Emergency Professionals established first @VOSTspain, then @VOSTeuskadi, @VOSTandalucia, @VOSTcanarias, @VOSTmadrid and more. VOST Spain now has a team of teams supporting the 112 system throughout the country, operating as a Virtual Operations Support Group, or VOSG.
A Virtual Operations Support Group, defined here using the acronym VOSG, is established when there’s a need to coordinate the work of multiple Virtual Operational Support Teams, to maintain an effective span of control. The VOSG has a Group Supervisor that reports to the affected organization/jurisdiction. The individual VOST Team Leaders report to the Group Supervisor. Over the last 18 months VOST Spain has been working with the VOSG concept, expanding the original single team concept prevalent in the US, and has now established a well coordinated and effective VOSG for VOST Spain, as can been seen here. A world first, boldly going where no teams have gone before.
By the time I caught up with Rafael Gálvez Rivas and Jokin Zubieta in Spain’s historic Cafe Iruña in Pamplona (famous for Ernest Hemingway – forgive me for squeezing in that little cultural gem), VOST Spain had added 18 teams in various stages of development, one for each province, with 9 active and operational. It was a rare opportunity to learn more about VOST Spain and share ideas and experiences with NY VOST, including strategy, coordination, missions and measured successes. It speaks to the power of the VOST concept and the vision of their leadership that VOST Spain were able to build so many teams so quickly as a deployable asset, especially since this is an all volunteer effort and determined to remain so. We discovered many aligned goals and new windows of opportunity for global VOST collaboration and mutual aid with NY VOST in New York (@NYVOST).
There have been some major hoaxes stopped by @VOSTSpain, including a forest fire in Teneriffe. Their recent efforts have included correcting wrong emergency phone information, promoting parental controls for mobile devices and amplifying warnings about mobile scams. VOST Spain is currently involved in disproving hoaxes circulating on the WhatsApp social network, Facebook and Twitter to help reduce call volume to the 112 system after emergency services became saturated with calls about an alleged cyclone in Cadiz, an alleged red alert not to take kids to school and an alleged white van that kidnaps children for organ trafficking, all false.
— VOST ESPAÑA (@vostSPAIN) February 13, 2014
In January 2014, VOST Spain also supported NY VOST by providing translation and amplification during the Winter Storm activation, increasing outreach to the Spanish speaking community and transient visitors located in the impacted area.
— NY VOST (@NYVOST) January 3, 2014
— VOST ESPAÑA (@vostSPAIN) January 7, 2014
How VOST Spain works
VOST Spain’s national strategy positions each regional team to support their local 112 emergency social media response, coordinating with the local 112 dispatch to ensure accuracy of the system. Having the same unified mission for all teams allows span of control across numerous provinces. The group as a whole operates under the supervision of three national coordinators. These are Rafael Gálvez Rivas (National Coordinator Virtual Operations Support Teams – equivalent VOSG Supervisor), Jokin Zubieta (National Coordinator for Volunteers) and Javier Blanco (National Coordinator for Training).
VOST Spain assists Civil Protection with the single mission to amplify official messages (#InfoEmerg) and especially, to detect and neutralize hoaxes and malicious rumors, which represents a significant challenge for Spain (#StopBulos).
“Building community trust and engagement as an official source will mitigate proliferation of false information, the number #1 challenge we face in Spain.” Rafael Gálvez Rivas said. “VOST Spain sees its role as explicitly correcting misinformation in a timely manner before rumors spread, something we believe we can only accomplish from having a separate and public identity for each VOST, which we use to point the public to official accounts.”
VOST Spain has implemented a policy that mandates each team to tweet daily as a way to establish and build VOST identity as the trusted “go to” source of information for the 112 emergency system for Spain.
Additionally, 112 operates in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatican and the United Kingdom. 112 is also available worldwide on GSM mobile networks. It’s easy to imagine the possibilities using the VOST Spain VOSG model.
More about the 112 system here:
VOST Spain currently limits the number of social media networks on which it engages to ensure the scope of its mission does not exceed available resources. They focus on Facebook and Twitter.
Rafael Gálvez Rivas said, “One of the longer term goals is to add other social networks, or perhaps it’s the next goal, but only after we have all provinces up and running.”
Ironically, VOST Spain has also been faced with counteracting misinformation about its own identity. They found it necessary to disassociate themselves from pop-up VOSTs that presented themselves on Twitter in recent months by strong statements that could be heard from across the Atlantic. They’re nothing if not effective in managing their own reputation issues, which are skills needed not only by VOSTs that have their own public identity, but also by VOSTs tasked to help an organization or agency managing theirs.
VOST Spain is a member of the VOST Leadership Coalition and a great advocate for VOST.
— R. Gálvez (@GalvezRivas) November 23, 2013
As of February 2014, VOST Spain has official teams actively supporting 112 emergency services in Andalucía @VOSTandalucia, Canarias @VOSTcanarias, Castilla y León @VOSTcyl, Cataluña @VOSTcat, Ceuta @VOSTceuta, País Vasco @VOSTeuskadi, Extremadura @VOSTextremadura, Galicia @VOSTgalicia, Madrid @VOSTmadrid, Murcia @VOSTmurcia, La Rioja @VOSTlarioja.
Additionally, teams are in formation in Aragón @VOSTaragon, Asturias @VOSTasturias, Baleares @VOSTbaleares, Cantabria @VOSTcantabria, Castilla La Mancha @VOSTclm, Navarra @VOSTnavarra, Comunidad Valencia @VOSTvalencia. You can find the latest information at www.VOST.es.
Perhaps most impressive about VOST Spain is the way they have grasped the VOST concept and in less than 2 years developed it into a successful operation 5,250 miles away from where it originated and in a different language, with great results. Innovative progress at this speed and with such positive results inspires everyone working in the SMEM and VOST space.
By Joanna Lane @joannalane
Sources:http://www.canalsur.es/noticias/andalucia/llamamiento-del-112-a-la-poblacion-ante-los-bulos-y-falsas-alarmas/364525.html http://irescate.es/team-vost-en-espana-que-son-como-funcionan/ http://www.tiempo.com/ram/44082/equipos-de-voluntarios-digitales-en-emergencias-los-vost/