The Nexus of Forces in Action – Use-Case 11: Incident Management



Using information from social channels and mobility to tackle incidents such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters, evacuation, and response.

Primary Industry Sectors

Transport, emergency services

Business Value

Emergency services, safety, security

Key Business Functions

Social network monitoring, crowd-sourcing

Primary Actors

Country citizen, emergency services responder

Secondary Actors

Government emergency incident management, social network provider, data and crowd behavioral analyst

Machine Actors

Social networks, photo-sharing websites, cloud, event and crowd behavior analytics, response planning apps, messaging alert system, real-time event analysis, mobile network communications, cloud infrastructure

Key Technologies

Multi-channel communications, real-time data analysis, social media, big data

Main Scenario

Possible steps for incident management include:

  • Incidents such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc. are reported into social media by responsible citizens of the world. Weather channels may report weather-related disasters as well.
  • Systems analyze the data coming from these sources, validate the data, analyze the truth of data based on information collected from multiple sources, and report the incidents to relevant parties/service providers such as protective services, health services, and voluntary organizations.
  • The service providers take steps such as helping with evacuations, transport, healthcare, and supplies (food, shelter, clothing) for affected parties. In addition they may be equipped with devices (IoT) that can provide value-added services – individual identification and reporting of their status.
  • Specific government embassies may be interested in identifying their citizens and transporting them back to their countries. This may involve devices that can identify citizens based on fingerprints, or based on real-time photo identification. Systems connected through Internet, systems that operate in low bandwidth connectivity, or even no connectivity are used. Such agencies may require travelers to register or the data captured at airports in advance when they are traveling out of country so that their data is handy in emergencies.
  • Affected individuals and their families need communication through the networks during such incidents. Fast recognition and regular updates of status data to the subscribing families will help. This could include capturing photos and videos of affected parties using mobile phones and making them available to the subscribing families. Data analytics could be used to identify the people from photographs and video footage based on the photos given by the families. The computation can all be happening on cloud-based high-performance computing processors.

Key Data

Master Data

Incidents (disasters, attacks, etc.)

Current Observations Data

Social communications, phone calls, weather data, etc.

Historical Data

Regional history, weather patterns, criminal history, incident history

Query Data

Intelligence built by collective analysis of multiple observations, pattern recognition, proactive analysis, keywords that trigger analysis, photo and video recognition

Action Taken Data

Actions taken on incidents

Real Business Examples

Social Media in Tornadoes

See Medill News article: Social Media in Tornadoes: telling their own stories after the tornadoes.


Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony” or “witness”) is a website created in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election (see 2007–2008 Kenyan Crisis) that collected eyewitness reports of violence sent in by email and text message and placed them on a Google map. It is also the name of the open source software developed for that site, which has since been improved, released freely, and used for a number of similar projects. (See Megha Bahree’s Citizen Voices article in Forbes.)

Stanley Cup Riot

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has put up a website entitled Hockey Riot 2011, informing people about the VPD?s investigations into the 2011 Stanley Cup riot. It also asks people to contribute any pictures or video that they may have taken during the riot, with the goal of identifying people who may have participated in the rioting. The site also reminds people not to use social media to take justice into their own hands, instead leaving it to the police. As of July 1, 2011, 101 arrests had been made. (See Stanley Cup Riot on the Vancouver Police Department website.)


BlueServo is a free website that crowd-sources surveillance of the Texas-Mexico border through live camera streams over the Internet. This evolved from an initiative taken by the State of Texas, which announced it would install 200 mobile cameras along the Texas-Mexico border, to enable anyone with an Internet connection to watch the border and report sightings of alleged illegal immigrants to border patrol agents. (See the BlueServo article.)

Neighborhood Reporting

SeeClickFix and FixMyStreet are web tools that allow citizens to report non-emergency neighborhood issues, which are communicated to local government, as a form of community activism. It has an associated free mobile phone app.

Use of Social Media in Disasters by Government

Twitter has been important for emergency management in the UK local government, especially during the 2011 riots. (See the LSE Blog.)

See also Sonia Paul’s article: How Social Media is Changing Disaster Response in Mashable.

Additional Considerations

Existing Interoperability Standards

Social network APIs (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr – vendor standards)

Comments on Context

Ethical and constitutional risks of data misuse. Civil rights.