Virtual Operations Support (VOS) as applied to emergency management and disaster recovery is an effort to make use of new communication technologies and social media tools so that a team of trusted agents can lend support via the internet to those on-site who may otherwise be overwhelmed by the volume of data generated during a disaster. VOS Teams (VOST) are activated to perform specific functions in support of affected organizations & jurisdictions. Each VOST has a Team Leader that reports directly to the affected organization/jurisdiction.
As additional VOSTs are established, a VOS Group (VOSG) may be established to coordinate the work of the VOSTs to maintain an effective span of control. The VOSG has a Group Supervisor that reports to the affected organization/jurisdiction. The VOST Leaders report to the Group Supervisor.
NYVOST was founded in 2011 with the vision to provide the State of New York and local communities with a powerful and effective team of trusted agents whose mission is to support public information, operations, information gathering and information dissemination efforts through an innovative, effective and efficient use of social media and other online or ‘virtual’ tools. The NYVOST is not meant to replace or substitute any social media response or plan. The NYVOST is a resource that can be activated to supplement or enhance a community’s existing social media for emergency response (SMEM) plan.
NY VOST performed a successful proof of concept exercise during Hurricane Irene in 2011, the first time a VOST was used on a large scale disaster. NY VOST helped to populate maps and lists with contacts and social media accounts for Emergency Managers and disaster authorities in areas that were expected to be affected in the projected path of the hurricane. The VOST amplified warnings and vital communications and kept in contact with VOST members who found themselves in harm’s way in the path of the hurricane, supplementing the local efforts on social media remotely.
In 2012, NY VOST was first activated by Suffolk County FRES (Fire Rescue and Emergency Services) on Long Island to assist the response on social media for Hurricane Sandy and the November Nor’Easter,an effort of some 650 hours over approximately two and a half weeks. Since then, the team has activated for numerous severe weather events in NY, including winter blizzards in 2014 and 2015.
NY VOST members, both individually and collectively as a team, have collaborated with other Virtual Operations Support Teams worldwide to facilitate mutual aid surge support and mission specific tasks. These teams currently include:
- Osbourne VOST: Working with Los Ranchos EM, New Mexico
- Eriksen VOST: Working with a National Incident Management Team that manages the response to large scale disasters and are interagency.
- COVOST: Formerly Jeffco VOST (Jefferson County, Colorado), in March 2014, the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) adopted the original Jeffco VOST and restructured the team to provide support to the State of Colorado and local Colorado communities.
- OK VOST: Supports the City of Altus OEM, Oklahoma and the National Weather Service (@NWSNorman).
- PNW IMT2 VOST: Primarily associated with a National Incident Management Team to help manage the response efforts of large scale natural disasters.
- CanVOST (Canada – bilingual English / French)
- VOST Spain (operating in Spanish) and VISOV (operating in French)
- VOST Panama (operating in Spanish)
- VOST Victoria (Australia)
- NZ VOST (New Zealand)
NY VOST activations range from 1 to 16 people depending on mission scope and available resources. Typically, a NY VOST activation includes the following missions:
- Monitoring social media for mission-critical information from the public
- Amplifying public safety messaging from activating agency and approved sources
- Performing reputation management and quality assurance for the activating agency
- Archiving and AAR reporting
This site is not monitored 24/7, except during an activation. In an emergency, always call 911.