Our hearts go out to all the folks suffering in the terrible fires and related chaos in southern California. In the aftermath, there will no doubt be crisis-management lessons for employers in how to communicate with and support employees, just as there were HR lessons from Katrina.
Your technology and web staff should be front line soldiers in crisis planning and crisis management. The Web offers numerous tools that employers should learn to harness for both their public and Intranet sites in the event of natural or man-made emergencies. To learn more about these technologies and to view them in action, see Using Social Media Services to Track the California Fires. This article offers links and discussion about how Google, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia and del.icio.us are being harnessed to offer real time updates, news, and resources about the San Diego area fires.
Note: some of the following links may change or expire as the situation evolves.
Nate Ritter offers an excellent example of how one individual is providing an important public service via the text messaging tool, Twitter. News station KPBS also has a good Twitter news feed.
Some very interesting (and terrible) updates are being provided via Google Map mashups, which bloggers and programmers are cobbling together quickly. This KPBS News map displays fire burn areas, evacuation areas, evacuation centers, road closures, and more. This blogger is mapping the homes that have been claimed by fire in his neighborhood of Rancho Bernardo. His blog, And Still I Persist is an example of the valuable role that bloggers can play in a disaster.
As they were during Katrina, newspaper message boards become an important gathering point for local residents to share information, resources, and help to neighbors. The Union-Tribune’s SignOnSanDiego wildfire forums have logged tens of thousands of messages since yesterday, grouped by geographic areas. Many distant folks have been reading these boards to keep track of areas where friends and family live.
And don’t forget—one other vital employer resource during and after an emergency is an employee assistance program. Sadly, there will be many, many hurting people when this terrible fire has run its course.

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