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Augmented Reality, a Reality?

For several years there has been talk and speculation about what augmented reality (AR) would really become, what it could or for that matter couldn’t do and why would we care?

Well, here it is, but wait, it has already been in use for several years so why are we just now hearing more about it? That has much to do with the 800 pound Gorilla in the room. Yes that’s Google.

Google has created the first truly wearable augmented reality, Google Glass. First, I should explain what AR really is. It is “simply” adding layers of data on top of the reality you see. For instance, if I am looking at the outside of what might become my next favorite place to eat but I need to know more about it I can use AR to layer information over the reality I see such as, reviews, the menu etc. etc. right in front of my eyes.

Now, Google Glass takes that to the next level. Here you have a wearable device that takes commands in various ways such as head movement, sound etc. to tell me almost anything I want to know without having to whip out that annoying phone or stop what I am doing and do a search.

Well, that’s the fun part of this technology so what does or could it do for us in the emergency services field? First, from the public’s end, those using this technology will have access to information on the fly and be able to communicate information to others on the fly without so much as looking at a phone. It will give them access to information on where they are, what’s around them and even, possibly who they are looking at.

This poses some challenges and opportunities for us. First, the people using this technology will have an increased knowledge of the world around them and even us. As time and technology move forward, people will have access to more and more information, literally at the blink of an eye. Some challenges for let’s say, law enforcement is that this may give a person a law enforcement officer is dealing with, an edge that they never had before. For example, if at the same time a person is interacting with an officer the person can pull up data on the officers department and the training they are given, it may give them an opportunity to take advantage of that officer’s weaknesses in a fight.

But, just think of the knowledge it could provide first responders? Maybe not today, but in the future the possibilities exist with facial recognition to be able to wear a device like Google Glass and scan a crowd for a suspect where the glasses would alert you to when you find someone with an outstanding warrant or someone suspected in a crime. Also, think of the possibilities of having a technology like this so first responders could just look at a building and see its layout and schematics. What about being able to roll up on the scene of a major disaster and be able to see what the area looked like before. Not like looking at a map but real images layered over what you are seeing right in front of you. This may drastically increase responders’ ability to rescue people safely and in a faster manner.

With all “new” technology, there will be up and downsides to it. But, if we as the response community can allow our inner five year old imaginations run wild, I think we can turn this technology into something wonderful that protects us and saves lives.

Master Deputy Tom Erickson has been with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for the past 18 years. He has served in several capacities within the office to include as the Public Information Officer for the past 10 years. Tom is an early adopter of social media both personally and professionally and has successfully integrated multiple platforms in his agency and assisted with the Kansas Incident Management Teams implementation and use of social media before, during and after disasters.

Sign up to get Twitter Alerts from your emergency services

Emergency Tweets

Twitter has just launched a new service in the UK – “Twitter Alerts”. This is a new facility (already tested in the US) aimed at emergency services to enable them to get critical information out as quickly as possible to the general public.

All the UK’s 47 police services, the London Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service, Mayor of London, the Foreign Office and the Environment Agency have all signed up (you can see a full list of participating services here). From 18 November 2013, these organisations will be able to highlight critical information to their Twitter followers by marking Tweets as alerts, which highlight a Tweet with an orange bell for added visibility.

Twitter users who sign up for an account’s Twitter Alerts will receive a notification directly to their phone via SMS. Users of Twitter for iPhone or Twitter for Android will also receive a push notification direct to their mobile. It’s a very straightforward process to subscribe – it took me 10 seconds to sign up to the Met Police Twitter Alert page here. Twitter even filled in my mobile phone number automatically for me.

Twitter Alerts in action

It is up to each emergency service to decide in what circumstances it should use a Twitter Alert. But, obviously, services will want to restrict their use carefully to crisis, disaster and emergency communications where spreading accurate safety information is critical.

Here are a few examples of real-life Twitter Alerts from the US:


Tornado Watch in effect for all of NJ. Be prepared to act quickly if warnings are issued by NWS. http://t.co/bLiQJE5qyb #alert

— NJ OEM (@ReadyNJ) October 7, 2013


USCP investigating reports of gunshots on Capitol Hill. If in a #Senate office, shelter in place. If not go to nearest office. #alert

— SenateSergeantAtArms (@SenateSAA) October 3, 2013


It’s easy to think of recent circumstances in the UK where Twitter Alerts would have been invaluable. Ones that spring to my mind include:

  • When the murderer Raoul Moat was on the run in Northumbria
  • When the two people who murdered drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich were still at large
  • During the course of the recent storms on 28 October 2013

Twitter Alerts would also be an invaluable resource around major fires and bomb alerts. The fact that so many people are almost always online via their mobile phones means not only that critical information can be disseminated at great speed but also that those of us receiving the alerts can share and pass them on and target them at loved ones we know might be in harm’s way.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter Alerts operate in practice in the UK.


The power of social currency for law enforcement

How much thought do you put into everything you post to social media? Do you think about how it will be received? Or if maybe your followers will share it among their friends? When you tabulate your number of followers each month, do you fantasize about all of them re-sharing your message far and wide?

It all comes down to how much value or “social currency” your posts provide your followers.

People go on to social networks to catch up with their friends, but they also go there to share and consume great content. People love to find great things to share with their friends. They love to get the praise of likes, comments and retweets from their shares.

So how do you make sure it’s your content that gets shared?

Educate, Surprise or Entertain

Think of social currency as social money you are giving to your audience to spend on their friends. When you have a post that is funny, provides useful information, is a little shocking or provides critical information — it will get shared.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Promoting a Community Event

Here is something that every law enforcement agency has to do, promote a community event. Let’s take this example of a typical boring tweet and one that might provide a little more social currency.


“Prescription Drug Turn-in this Saturday at Precinct 1 from 12-2. http://link.com”

How can we make that more interesting? How can we educate and maybe even shock people a little bit. Let’s take a statistic from the press release and make that the post instead.

“One person dies every 19 minutes from prescription drug abuse. Teenagers access prescriptions from medicine cabinets. http://link.com”

That is the same link as before; but I bet more people will click the link, share it with their friends and may even learn that there is a need for such an event. There is nothing wrong with putting out both posts or even more variations of them leading up to the event. You will certainly find one that resonates with your followers.

Humanize Your Police Officers

One of my goals on social media is to humanize my police officers. The use of self-deprecating humor and embracing stereotypes are great ways to show that police officers have a sense of humor and are people too. Here are two examples of humanizing an officer on National Donut Day.

Boring, but typical post:

“It’s National #DonutDay – our favorite day of the year.”

That certainly embraces a stereotype and would actually get a few likes. But let’s solicit the agency for a picture and see what they send us back.


This awesome picture truly embraces the stereotype. It embraces it to the point where it will shock your audience. It humanizes, is funny and is very very shareable.

Police officers are silly people and if you ask them for assistance in make your social media content matter; they will often bend over backward to make you happy.

Building Your Audience

The best way to grow your audience is to provide your current followers with enough social currency to get you retweeted and shared on a consistent basis. This puts you in front of many new people that currently aren’t following you. Also the content that they are seeing from you is your best stuff because it is what your fans are choosing to share with their friends.

The challenge is to keep shareable content flowing every day. Something easy you can do is brainstorm a month’s worth of short posts. Have these posts ready and try to put out at least one a day.

Posts that work well for law enforcement agencies typically have to do with crime prevention, emergency preparedness and traffic safety.

Here are a few example posts that you can steal for your social channels. You will quickly get an idea about what kinds of content your audience likes to share and then create more posts so you can get shared far and wide with daily consistency.

Parents: Please don’t threaten to call the cops on your children as a form of discipline. You should teach your kids that the cops are the good guys; people they can go to when they need help.

On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. #DomesticViolence

The leading cause of death for teenage drivers in the U.S. is now #texting and driving, not drinking and driving.

Be ready for an earthquake with this app from @RedCross. Receive alerts and notifications. Prepare your family. http://rdcrss.org/Qahc20

Don’t attract thieves to your car by leaving sat navs, loose change, clothes or CDs on display #thinksafe

Your cell phone can be a lifeline during/after an emergency. Keep an extra battery or solar-powered charger w/ you so it stays powered up!

Reminder: Kids, bullying is unacceptable! It hurts, promotes negative behavior, and has no place in our schools/community

The key that you should remember about social currency, is to think about how the posting will come across to your audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you click this link? Would you share it with your friends? How can you make it more interesting?

Jason Ruby (@LESMCoach) is a social media coach for law enforcement based in Portland, Oregon. He is a member of the Portland, Oregon Police Bureau (@PortlandPolice) communications unit where he comes up with fun ways to engage the public with social media.

[Infographic] Final results of #poltwt Global police tweet-a-thon

Around the world, police men, women, and departments are changing the way they interact. With the increased use of Twitter and other social media, police personnel can now communicate better with their community and other audiences across the globe.

The second global police tweet-a-thon helped raise global awareness of the communication that can exist between law enforcement and the community through advocating law enforcement’s use of the hashtag #poltwt on November 1, 2013. By monitoring the Twitter Firehose, BrightPlanet followed the conversation that was occurring during the tweet-a-thon throughout the 24 hour period. We received and analyzed over 31,000 tweets from over 12,000 individual users and departments. Because of the large percentage of tweets in the English language, the following analysis will be given in English. The results focus primarily on where, when, and from whom the tweets were sent.


To help you visualize the results and give students some real world experience, we sent the final collected data set over to a Business Intelligence class at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. The following infographic is the analysis of that data set. If you have any questions about the dataset or would like access to it, please fill out the contact form located here.

The Global Police Tweet-a-thon is the creation of LAwS Communications. The first #poltwt tweet-a-thon was held March 22, 2013.

See also:
Highlights of #Poltwt – half way through Nov 1, 2013

Global Police Tweet-a-thon, the sequel October 2, 2013

#poltwt, the power of 1 March 27, 2013

Reflections on #poltwt March 26, 2013

Final results of #poltwt Tweet-a-Thon March 25, 2013

Missing a Trick – a UK perspective on police and social media for #poltwt March 25, 2013

Greater Manchester Police joining with forces across the globe #poltwt March 20, 2013

Global Police Tweet-a-thon December 18, 2012

PGPD Game Time

It had the ingredients for a traffic disaster: a Monday evening rush hour on the notoriously clogged Capital Beltway combined with a 7:05 pm kick-off for the Washington Redskins’ 2013 season home opener in Landover, Maryland.

But the Prince George’s County Police Department, whose headquarters borders FedEx Field, home of the Redskins’ stadium, decided to tackle the traffic challenge head-on. The department’s Media Relations Division developed a plan to inform the community about one of the most talked about topics in the Washington, DC area on any day of the year: traffic. The PGPD created “Game Time,” an information-sharing social media event. The department began tweeting on the Friday before the Monday Night Football game against the Redskins’ nearby NFC East rival the Philadelphia Eagles. Using the hashtag #GameTime, one member of the Media Relations Division coordinated with the police department’s Special Operations Division, which oversees all events at FedEx Field, to determine which information and images to tweet and when.

NFL games are major events for the PGPD with some 200 officers handling security and traffic. There is a large control room within FedEx Field where the Special Ops commanders keep a watchful eye on activities both in and around the stadium. Relying on a large bank of traffic cameras surveying the major arteries near the 90,000-person stadium, the Media Relations Division was able to see and then share traffic news in real time as the 7:05pm kickoff approached.

Various local media outlets gave advance coverage to “Game Time”, advising viewers, listeners and reader that the police department’s Twitter handle, @PGPDNews, would be tweeting traffic news during the potentially disastrous evening commute. This included the widely-followed The Washington Post’s traffic Twitter handle, @DrGridlock.

To maintain the momentum of the media coverage and to help game-goers plan, Media Relations began tweeting #GameTime news at about 3:30pm, 3 1/2 hours before the game began. In an attempt to crowd source traffic information, the PGPD solicited commuter input & specifically tried to discourage the notion of having drivers tweeting while behind the wheel:

At about 5 pm, this basic tweet prompted 12 retweets, or sharing of the police department’s message:

The Department’s message was spreading:

A parking logistics coordinator working for the Washington Redskins noted during the event it seemed to him the advance media coverage and the possibility of gridlock might be having an effect – not just on game attendees but on rush hour commuters as well. The parking lots, both he and police commanders noted, were filling up much earlier than expected.

The major roadways were far less congested than expected as kick-off neared. Drivers had planned ahead and arrived at the stadium well in advance.

A PGPD Special Operations Division helicopter flying above the stadium offered aerial images of traffic and the parking lots. Those tweets generated a lot of retweets, indicating the appetite for information included an appreciation for social media aesthetics.

In addition to the media coverage generated by the event, the PGPD advertised for “Game Time” in the days leading up to the game on Twitter, since that’s where the event would take place. However, to encourage crossover followers, the event was also advertised on the department’s Facebook page.

What ticket holders and commuters alike took away from the “Game Time” experience isn’t easily measured. Based on media coverage, the 38 new @PGPDNews followers gained that day and positive response from existing @PGPDNews followers, the department deemed the event a success.

The next similar event is planned for the week before Thanksgiving. Look for @PGPDNews to host #OperationOutlets on November 22, 2013. The grand opening for a new outlets mall in Prince George’s County is expected to draw more than 20,000 visitors and could lead to traffic tie-ups. To try and prevent that, the PGPD’s Special Operations Division’s Traffic Enforcement Unit and the Media Relations Division will again team up, returning to Twitter to once again keep citizens informed.

Julie Parker serves as the Director of the Media Relations Division for the Prince George’s County (MD) Police Department, the nation’s 28th largest law enforcement agency. The PGPD straddles Washington, D.C. and spans 500 square miles of urban, suburban, and rural populations. Prince George’s County is home to the University of Maryland at College Park, the Washington Redskins, and NASA headquarters with an approximate population of 900,000. Parker serves as principal communications advisor to the Chief of Police & other executive command staff and is responsible for key messages and media strategy, to include during crisis situations. She promotes and achieves positive news stories at an unprecedented level for this police department. Parker manages a 13-person division comprised of sworn and civilian public information officers, video production specialists, graphic designer, Crime Solvers coordinator and special projects professional. Parker is also a frequent guest lecturer at the FBI National Academy on law enforcement media relations and crisis communications. She’s a recognized leader in using social media for innovative community outreach, media relations, crisis communications, targeted branding and messaging. Parker spent 13 years reporting and anchoring in Washington, DC, most recently for ABC7 News where she won both an Emmy Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award.

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