Just Starting Out

The 7 steps to incorporating social media into emergency management are:

  1. learning about social media
  2. choosing a social media strategy
  3. developing a social media policy
  4. educating staff
  5. ensuring both desktop and mobile capabilities
  6. creating and distributing information
  7. monitoring and evaluating your outcomes and goals.

Read the post by Cheryl Bledsoe at
*Note: Following Twitter API updates, selected apps referenced in this article no longer function. Consult a SMEM Trainer for current information.

If you’re looking for White Papers and Presentations go here.

Operational Documents and Guides

Check the copyright before using or adapting any of these VOST Training materials for your own purposes. If in doubt, clear your proposed use with the authors. Templates are “Read Only”, created in Google Docs so they can be shared and used by multiple team members in the virtual space. To make an editable copy, login to your Google Drive, go to File -> Copy.

Modified ICS Forms

Templates developed by Jeff Phillips, originally for VOST Osbourne. Download:

VOST Workbook 4.0

Template developed by Marlita Reddy-Hjelmfelt, originally for PNW2 VOST, based on a work by Cheryl Bledsoe for CRESA VOST. Download:

Using Social Media for Enhanced Situation Awareness and Decision Support

Published in the U.S. in June 2014 by the Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG) and DHS First Responders Group, this guide contains best practices and guidance on using social media platforms within the public safety and emergency response communities.

The report introduces ways social media platforms can be used for situational awareness in public safety. It addresses various challenges associated with the use of social media for situational awareness, the integration of social media within the operational environment, and identifies areas requiring further consideration, research, and development.

Download: Using Social Media for Enhanced Situational Awareness and Decision Support

Social Media for Emergency Management “A Good Practice Guide”

VOST is included in many areas of this May 2014 guide by WREMO, the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office, New Zealand. WREMO won The 2014 IAEM-Global Technology & Innovation Award, Division 2 winner for its use of social media as an engagement tool to help build strong communities, promote disaster preparedness through clever marketing, and communicate official emergency management information during and after an event. The agency’s innovative approach to building an audience before an event has helped to redefine the meaning of Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM) and has created the largest following on Facebook for an emergency management office in the world per capita. 

Download: Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (New Zealand) Social Media in Emergency Management – A Good Practice Guide 2014
Caroline Milligan, NZ VOST Team Lead, contributed to the development of this guide, which any organization can adopt.

The Basics – May 2012

Original conceptual slide presentation developed by Caroline Milligan and Scott Reuter for NZ VOST, based on Jeff Phillips VOST Osbourne “Proof of Concept” activations:

Training Guide – October 2012

Original work developed by in conjunction with the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office for the Wellington Region Virtual Operations Support Team (WgtnVOST). Authors: Caroline Milligan and Scott Reuter.

FOG – May 2013

Original Field Operations Guide developed by Cheryl Bledsoe, CRESA VOST. Template:

Errant Tweet Policy – October 2012

Developed for NY VOST by Joanna Lane and Kim Stephens.


Columbus Public Health – Office of Emergency Preparedness – Preparedness Partners Webinar Series


Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) – 1 hour presentation by Lloyd Colston, Cheryl Bledsoe and Mary Jo Flynn on August 14th 2013.

Stream the webinar:

Download the webinar:

WebEx ARF player required for playback. Download ARF player

Storify: National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

VOST Basics with additional in-depth discussion of VOST workflow. Presentation by Scott Reuter and Marlita Reddy-Hjelmfelt:

Interactive Web Based Courses

IS-100.B: Introduction to Incident Command System, ICS-100

An Introductory Guide to the Incident Command System (Comic Book):
IS-700.A: National Incident Management System (NIMS) An Introduction

IS-42: Social Media in Emergency Management

In Person Training

Training Inquiry