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CCSO Website Turns Into Storm Central When Weather Threatens

Karie Partington is the Public Affairs Manager at the CCSO

The corporate world is known for using dark websites as a crisis management tool, but the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has developed one specially designed to be a community resource during major storm events.

A ‘dark site’ is a pre-prepared and ready-to-publish site to facilitate information sharing in the event of a crisis or emergency. In this case, the emergency was the growing and rapidly approaching Tropical Storm Isaac.

“I felt it was important to provide our community with comprehensive news and information that would help them not only prepare for the storm and track its approach, but also be a resource afterward by providing specifics about storm damage,” said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.

Sheriff Rambosk said the website is the first of its kind in Southwest Florida, and possibly the state.

While Isaac ended up tracking westward of Collier County and having a minimal impact locally, it provided the agency with an opportunity to put its dark site to the test.

The site, www.colliersheriff.org, offered a live Isaac Tracker through The Weather Channel and weather updates including a map of current weather conditions through www.accuweather.com. There were links to state and local storm-related resources, including the Collier County Emergency Management website and the National Hurricane Center website.

Visitors could also watch CCSO videos about hurricane preparedness and see educational information, including the proper procedures when traffic signals aren’t functioning. The site also offered contact information for area cable, telephone and electricity providers as a resource for citizens needing to report outages.

A customized Google map displayed the six storm shelters that were activated. Had the community received damage, that information, along with road closures and power outages, would have been mapped as well.

Following any major storm event, deputies are among the first people to go out in the weather. CCSO deputies were prepared to shoot photos and video clips of damaged areas as soon as it was safe to deploy into neighborhoods and e-mail them to the agency’s Public Affairs staff to be shared with the community quickly.

Quick access to photos and videos and maps of affected areas is particularly critical in Collier County because hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, when many property owners are up north. Thanks to the photos, videos and maps of damaged areas, finding accurate information on how their neighborhood fared during the storm is as simple as visiting www.colliersheriff.org.

Importantly, site visitors were still able to reach the agency’s standard website and all of its content via a handy button on the home page. Other buttons provided access to the agency’s Facebook and Twitter pages and its video site, www.ccso.tv.

The site was taken down after Isaac passed Southwest Florida, but it will be activated again the next time a major storm threatens Collier County.

Social Media Quick Tip: Is Facebook Truly a Public Forum?

It’s the kind of lawsuit that’s been anticipated and predicted by many, especially within law enforcement.

Earlier this week, the Honolulu Police Department was named in a complaint over deleted Facebook posts. According to the Associated Press, the deleted posts were made by members of a gun group and the lawsuit indicates the deletions on the part of HPD were “arbitrary.”

The HPD has a posted takedown policy on its Facebook page and the exact content of the deleted posts isn’t public at this time.

Legal experts seem to agree that it boils down to whether the Facebook page is truly a public forum.

William Lasser, a professor of political science and a first amendment scholar at Clemson University, explained that the roots of the definition of public forums go back to the 1930s, when courts defined public forum in terms of it being a physical or literal space. But the definition, he said, has been expanded in the decades since.

“You could endlessly complicate this,” he said and explained that the definition of public forum is generally a government-controlled space, but there are exceptions to that. He said, for example, prisons and military bases are not public forums.

The definition can also include spaces not generally open as public forums that the government has declared to be public forums. It can also include a space which would not otherwise be a public forum, but is being used as a public forum and has gone unchecked by government and becomes public forum by default.

If the page is determined not to be a public forum, Lasser said, “the government can pretty much regulate speech there for any rational purpose.”

The legal issue, he said, is “whether through action or inaction the police department has welcomed robust public debate on issues. If they have, it becomes a public forum, but that’s not to say that even in that case they can never restrict speech. It’s just that they would need a compelling governmental interest.”

The question of whether there’s a compelling government interest was also pinpointed by Rick Joyce, a Washington, D.C., based attorney and chair of the communications group at Venable, LLP.

“The problem I think they might have is whether someone did made a decision based upon what was said,” Joyce said, “and if so, did the police department have legitimate government interest to remove it?”

The fact that a police department posts a takedown policy could help its case.

Related story on LawOfficer.com:

Social Media Quick Tip: Give Your Facebook Page a Takedown Policy

Lasser likened it to a bulletin board where you can post a notice, but have to get approval first.

“You can’t have it both ways though, and posting a takedown policy doesn’t by itself immunize oneself from the public forum doctrine,” Lasser said. “Time, place and manner restrictions on speech are permissible but the dividing line between time, place and manner can’t be based on content.”

The constitutionality of such a takedown policy is key, Joyce said. Any policy that allows someone to “pick and choose” to delete content could be problematic.

“They ought to have a department attorney take a look to see if in broadest terms that takedown policy conforms with relevant first amendment precedents,” Joyce said. “The first amendment may not be established in the cloud or in new media, but the question as to whether there’s a government interest at stake is pretty well establish.”

Issues such as this one have stifled some police departments’ willingness to use Facebook. The case is thought to be the first of its kind to begin to answer these tough questions as to how a police department, or any government organization, can use a social network to provide for open dialog and how far it can go to limit or otherwise affect that dialog.

This Social Media QuickTip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Social Media Quick Tip: Claim Your Community

If a community page exists for your department, here’s how you can claim it

It’s possible your police department has a page on Facebook that no one associated with the department created. I’m not referring to pages created by impersonators. That’s a different Quick Tip.

However, sometimes pages are created by Facebook when someone selects an associated interest or when someone checks in to a location. Those pages are called Community Pages, and they’re accompanied by a briefcase or a geo-location pin as an icon.

For example, search “Sacramento Police” on Facebook and, in addition to the real department page, you’ll find a page Facebook created.

If such a page exists for your police department, you can claim it. First you must convince Facebook that you’re the official representative and become the admin. Then you can merge it with your real page.

Here’s how:

  1. In the upper right corner of the page, click on the round asterisk-looking pull-down menu.
  2. Select Is this your business?
  3. Fill in the information and click Continue.
  4. You will then have to choose a method to verify you can claim the page.

Once Facebook reviews your request and accepts it, you’ll be made the administrator of the page. You can then merge it with your current page.

To merge two pages they must have similar names and the same address. Go to the page with the most Likes.

  1. Click Edit Page
  2. Then Update Info
  3. Then Resources
  4. If you have two pages that qualify to be merged, you will see a link offering you to Merge duplicate pages.

When completed, the Likes and Check in From the page with the fewest Likes will be incorporated into the page with most Likes. Everything else on the old Community Page will go away.

Collier County Sheriff Rambosk Launches Storm Website

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is Storm Central for Tropical Storm Isaac.

In fact, whenever severe weather is approaching the community can now turn to CCSO’s new website.

The site is always viewable at www.ccso.tv/ccsostormcentral.html. When Collier County experiences a significant storm event, such as Isaac, the website will override the Sheriff’s main website. In the case of Isaac, that override launched Thursday evening.

“Whenever a major weather event is threatening Collier County it is critical to provide information. This new website does just that,” Sheriff Rambosk said. “I’m committed to keeping residents up to date about our emergency preparation. The goal is to have information in the hands of the community so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their property.”

The website offers a live Isaac Tracker through The Weather Channel and weather updates including a map of current weather conditions through www.accuweather.com. As Collier County begins feeling the impacts of Isaac, it will also feature up-to-date photographs and videos of the storm in action taken by CCSO members out in the field.

There are links to state and local storm-related resources, including the Collier County Emergency Management website and the National Hurricane Center website.

Visitors can watch CCSO videos about hurricane preparedness. There’s also useful information for after a storm, including a map that will display affected areas such as road closures and power outages; and information about curfews and re-entry procedures for residents in affected areas.

There’s educational information including proper procedures when traffic signals aren’t functioning as well as frequently needed phone number before and after a storm ranging from law enforcement to utilities.

There are also links to the CCSO website, www.colliersheriff.org, as well as ccso.tv and the agency’s Facebook fan page and Twitter feed.

Next Gen 9-1-1 Funding Crucial Piece to Nationwide Interoperability Puzzle

We all know what to do in an emergency – dial 9-1-1. What many of us don’t know is that after teaching generations of Americans to spontaneously dial those three digits for help, our national 9-1-1 system faces its own emergency. The 9-1-1 infrastructure we’ve relied on for more than 40 years is based on analog technology with fixed endpoints. It’s a design that has quickly become outdated in a digital age where texting, mobile calls, photos and videos are the preferred mode of communication at the swipe or touch of our Android, iPhone and iPad devices.

Since the federal law was passed in February, we’re now seeing the beginning of a complete paradigm shift. Contained within this legislation, which also created the national public safety LTE network, is a provision for $115 million in funding to support Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) technologies. This means that in place of “Old World” E911, we can eventually expect to have a communications structure that’s data centric, integrates multimedia such as text and video, and is based on open standards. Cassidian Communications, a Raytheon partner, stands at the forefront of this next-gen development with its equipment already being used in Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) solutions in Montana and Texas.

According to the federal government, the $115 million in grant money will come from spectrum auction revenue, with the funding only becoming available after the spectrum is auctioned. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are authorized to oversee grant distribution through the end of fiscal year 2022.

Eligible applicants will be able to receive matching grants of up to 60 percent of a project’s cost. The funds can be used for several purposes, including implementing an IP-enabled emergency network; operating NG9-1-1 services and applications; establishing IP backbone networks and the software infrastructure needed to interconnect emergency response organizations; and training public safety personnel, such as call takers, first responders and others who are part of the emergency response chain in 9-1-1 services.

The benefits of an interoperable NG9-1-1 system would impact all of public safety. It would mean:

1) Improved delivery and management of content from IP endpoints such as IP video, alarms and real-time data;

2) Advanced routing capabilities and more flexible location of call-taking positions;

3) A higher degree of interoperability between emergency call centers (PSAP to PSAP) as well as from PSAPs to first responders; and

4) Potential lower communications costs over the long term when bringing calls into the PSAP and transferring calls out of it.

With NG9-1-1 technologies, situational awareness extends across platforms as soon as the system receives a call or text from any IP-capable device. This is a win-win situation for emergency center call takers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders, as well as those who had to dial for help in the first place.

You can read the full text of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act, subtitle E of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act here, starting on page 82. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3630enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr3630enr.pdf

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