It's quite possible you're reading this at work right now. In fact you might be on your smartphone, checking this out from a link posted on Facebook or Twitter that you found while staging in your ambulance, at least that could be the case according to the audience feedback at Greg Friese's 8 a.m. EMS Expo talk. In "Understanding and Using Social Networking for Personnel Communication & Education," Friese polled the audience on use of social media, which includes e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and blog sites.
More than 50% of people in the audience reported that a majority of their co-workers use smartphones, higher than the national average. He added that more than 60% of providers in his Thursday morning social media session, "Trends in Online Education for Emergency Responders," have WiFi in 60% of their ambulances.
Do you have WiFi in your ambulance? If so, are you allowed to use it for social media?
But the main discussion points this morning weren't on how many people use social media, rather how EMS providers use social media and how EMS agencies and administrators should tackle this use. Some managers in the audience favored a blanket policy restricting use on the clock, while others suggested that could actually make the situation worse.
"We can't stop this," Friese said, citing statistics that Facebook users upload 2.5 billion photos per month and YouTube users upload 20 hours of video per month. He suggested agency officials dust off their Internet use guidelines, decide what's best in their community and continually educate providers on what constitutes a good post.
"Social media might not be the biggest problem your agency faces. Solve your biggest problems first and prioritize correctly," he says.
One type of social media site he suggested might be a higher priority than others are geolocating sites, such as foursquare and gowalla, where users show where they're located because it might compromise the security of the providers.
Do you think this could pose an operational risk by compromising security?
Friese added that social media sites can actually be positive for agencies, adding that providers can get valuable training lessons and tips from e-mail, video, podcasts and webcasts. He also stressed the importance of every agency having -- and frequently updating -- an online presence because people are out there on the Internet, looking for information. He said EMS agencies should communicate out with official pages on such sites as Facebook and Twitter, which allow for direct communication that's instant.
Also, he added, these sites are free and easy to use. You just have to figure out how much time you want to devote to them, or you might end up missing your next call because you were so engrossed in your most recent YouTube find. ... Lots of food for thought.