New York Virtual Operations Support Team
SECOND AVENUE BUILDING COLLAPSE, EAST VILLAGE, NYC
Response/Exercise: March 26, 2015 – March 30,2015
On March 26, 2015 at 1517 hrs, FDNY units were dispatched to 123 2nd Ave between 7th Street and St. Mark’s Place for a fire and possible explosion. At 1522 hrs a structural fire and building collapse were reported by arriving units. By 1554 the incident had reached a 7th alarm. Two 5-story buildings were fully involved with fire, as well as 3 floors of a neighboring 7-story building. Surrounding occupancies were evacuated and a perimeter was established. Outside operations commenced due to the large volume of fire. All three buildings eventually collapsed.
Integrating social media into Situational Awareness supports the enhanced quality of decision making and risk management processes. During the operational period, the NYVOST employed a range of emerging technologies to support an integrated Situational Awareness toolset for the FDNY Incident Management Team by:
- Monitoring social media for mission-critical information from the public
- Amplifying public safety messaging from the FDNY and related NYC sources
- Performing quality assurance and reputation management for the activating agency
- Archiving and AAR reporting
Operational personnel can gain much from practicing the actual tasks that would be executed in the event of a major disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy. NYVOST members (VOSTies) gained ninety six (96) hours of activation experience in total over the operational period. Individual practitioners gained between (4) hours and forty four (44) hours each, depending on their voluntary availability.
NYVOST Incident Response March 26 -30, 2015
The New York Virtual Operations Support Team (NYVOST) activated at 21:27 on March 26, 2015 to provide social media emergency management (SMEM) support to the FDNY Type II All Hazard Incident Management Team at the scene. The FDNY-IMT’s Public Information Officer (PIO) liaised with the NYVOST’s Team Lead remotely, who coordinated the VOST response to perform the following missions:
- Monitoring for issues requiring a 911 response, smoke conditions, displaced people,
rumors and hoaxes.
- Amplifying @FDNY twitter and other official response agencies and verified sources.
- Identifying possible FDNY-IMT response gaps on social media or complaints as
reported by the public.
These primary missions remained throughout the operational period, with a special instruction added on the second day to source, verify and curate images for FDNY use. The team’s Pinterest board, entitled #NYC Explosion March 26th 2015, fulfilled this need.
Monitoring results were first sent in a Situation Report via email to the PIO within thirty (30) minutes of activation, then periodically as needed. Monitoring activities that resulted in actionable or reportable items were escalated to the PIO per the VOST Modified ICS-204 Coordination Summary and Communication Protocols.
Amplification by NYVOST simultaneously supported important social media public safety messaging by NYC Government Agencies and verified sources, including FDNY, NYC OEM and the Mayor’s Office, in both English and Spanish. The total number of NYVOST posts on Twitter and Facebook was over 160 items. More than 100 images were verified and made available to the FDNY-IMT using the Pinterest curation platform.
Summary social media metrics are also included in the After Action Report (AAR) report for the purpose of analysis. Measuring how social media messaging has performed in an emergency or crisis situation helps the agency evaluate how well their critical messages are reaching the population. Social media is especially relevant to individuals and groups who may not have access to traditional media, cable television or local resources, such as NY1. The absence of actionable information for this population, as well as the diaspora, is a gap of vital importance. The NYVOST response helped bridge this gap.
For this operation, NYVOST comprised three (3) seasoned volunteers rotating shifts with minimal gaps due to leveraging time zones. Two of the three were located in Suffolk County, New York and one was located in Australia. Additional monitoring effort was contributed at initial activation by a professional EM located in Suffolk County.
The team demobilized with the FDNY-IMT at 18:00 on March 30, 2015, at which time the team had logged a total of 96 FTE hours. The next day, the team followed-up by posting additional recovery resources for the public benefit. For AAR, a data specialist located in New Jersey assisted.
Working with NYVOST increased FDNY’s reach and exposure, as well as that of other NYC Government agencies, in both English and Spanish. It also allowed those departments and agencies to keep their essential messages “current”. The amplification of messages by quoting and retweeting to appropriate hashtags (or keywords) assists in keeping select essential information prominent in the timeline of a “trending” hashtag such as #EastVillage.
— NY VOST (@NYVOST) March 27, 2015
The 22 page After Action Report about NYVOST’s support of the FDNY Incident Management Team’s response to the Second Avenue Building Collapse in March 2015 is now available. You can request a copy using the contact form below.
AAR cover photo: FDNY fire operations continue in the East Village Joe Esposito, Commissioner NYC Emergency Management, March 27, 2015