Disasters create a variety of challenges for emergency managers – and many of those revolve around data and information. In a disaster, we often find we have too much “bad” info, and not enough “good” info, making it very difficult to make effective decisions. VOST tries to ease this problem by providing decision makers with what they need to understand what the disaster is doing to communities, what the needs of a community are, and what the public is saying – all in an easy to digest and understand format.
We do this through a three tier framework.
- Volunteers collect data (from social media, traditional media, or just about anywhere Google will take them).
- Analysts look at the colelcted data, verify what is effective and what isn’t, and match that data to a specific mission or tasking.
- Team leaders create daily (or twice daily) situation reports that are sent to VOST partners. These reports simplify the massive amounts of raw data that can be collected into easy to understand chunks for decsision makers.
Volunteers works entirely online, using free tools. As of the COVID-19 activation, FSU.VOST has standardized on Slack for team communication and coordination, and that is probably our most important tool. In addition to Slack, volunteers need a good internet connection, a laptop, a Twitter account (as well as other social media), and some excellent web searching skills. FSU.VOST also usees Airtable for our data management, including tracking partners, missions, search strings and keywords in use, situation reports, and more.
During each activation, we run a variety of just-in-time training webinars. These allow new volunteers to see the process, ask questions, and dive in. At first the entire concept seems complicated and difficult – but it is actually quite simple. a) Check the missions for the day. b) Find information to support those missions, and c) Send that information in via the Airtable form.
You can spend as much or as little time working with FSU.VOST. If we have multiple volunteers working at a time, Analysts will provide guidance and direction on which missions each should work on. We track time, so students can receive volunteer credit for thier efforts.
Here are some of the more common questions about volunteering with FSU.VOST:
Do I have to be an expert in emergency management?
No. While some EM knowledge would be good, we are looking for internet savvy individuals who can help us mine Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram (and others) for disaster related information.
Do I need special equipment or software?
No. Everything we use is free and can be run on any laptop or desktop computer with an internet connection. You will need a Twitter account and a Slack account (provided by us) to get started.
I have a full time job, can I still volunteer?
Absolutely. In a major activation, we will need volunteers to work shifts in the evening, overnight, and on the weekends. You can give as much or as little time as you want.
Do I get paid?
Can I put this on my resume?
Of course. FSU.VOST is a great resume builder and we can provide verification and references for our volunteers.
What training is required or recommended?
We offer just-in-time training on how to work in the FSU.VOST framework – we will teach you everything you need to know.
How many hours do I need to work per day?
This is completely up to you. Keep in mind that this is a volunteer experience…it’s not a job and we do not have the means to pay our volunteers. This is an opportunity to assist the State of Florida during a critical time for our state, our country, and the world. The information you gather will help the State of Florida in their decision-making regarding the situation with COVID-19.
How are we communicating?
Slack. This is the only platform we are using for all VOST communication. If you have not yet joined the Slack group, you have been missing out on all of the important details of this VOST activation! You got the Slack login info via email – if not let us know! Please familiarize yourself with the system and how we’re utilizing the different channels.
How do I sign up for a shift?
We use a Google Sheet. If you don’t have the link, just ask us in Slack. Make sure you’re on the “Signup” tab. As a VOST volunteer, you contribute as much or as little as you’d like. As of now, we are asking for up to 5 volunteers per shift. If there is a particular date or time you really want, be sure to sign up for it well ahead of time. Please keep in mind that this sheet can be edited by anyone. Do not, under any circumstances, modify any of the past information! Only use the sheet to sign up for a shift and account for the time you volunteered.
Do I need to log my hours?
Yes! This is crucial to our mission because we need to account for all hours worked by all participants during this activation. You will use the same Google Sheet as before, but please make sure you’re on the “Checkin/Checkout” tab. As before, only modify information here as it pertains to your particular shift!
What am I looking for?
The short answer…this will change daily. Prior to starting your shift, you’ll need to review the daily missions, which will always be posted to this #missions channel within Slack.
How do I find and submit information?
Finding information is up to you. Some folks use twitter.com, some use Hootsuite, some Tweetdeck. Then there is Reddit, Google, and a lot of other methods – do what you find comfortable. Once you find info, Use the Airtable form you were provided in Slack. It’s fairly self-explanatory, but allow me to expand upon the form a bit:
- “URL” – copy and paste the url for the source
- “Mission” – click to add the mission you think this data applies to.
- “Primary Category” – using your best judgement, choose the most appropriate category for your source; you may also select a second category if necessary
- “Notes” – here, it would be very helpful if you could translate the information, but we are not asking for pages and pages of translated material! Really just the translated tweet, caption, or brief summary of the source.
- “Submitted by” – your full name
Is Slack important?
If you’ve read this FAQ, you know the answer. If you aren’t in Slack (and using it) you aren’t really doing anything for FSU.VOST. Slack runs in your browser, there are iOS and Android apps, and you can run it on your Windows or Mac desktop. Get it, use it – it’s the only way you can be part of the team.
Get on the Roster
If you would like to get on the FSU.VOST roster and be available for activations, contact our staff at vostinfo at cdrp.net.