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UW Emergency Management

November 28, 2017

UWEM leading effort to build Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) for Washington State

UW Emergency Management is fortunate to be one of the partners leading the way for a Washington State Virtual Operations Support Team also known as a VOST.  Members of a VOST are a diverse mix of professional emergency managers, technologists, communications specialists, and volunteers that share a passion for harnessing technology for the greater good.  VOSTs activations are coordinated through the local, state, or federal emergency management agency, and provide comprehensive reports to support field operations, public information dissemination, and planning.  The VOST concept has been recognized by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a key 20171128_111241component during planned events and disaster response.

UWEM has recognized the need for this vital resource in the Seattle region, and extending to all UW affiliated campuses across the state.  As a result, UWEM has partnered with several agencies across Washington State and Oregon to build a regional VOST. To further this effort, UWEM hosted a training session that coincided with the 110th Apple Cup, the goal of this training was to improve the skills of the team, and test new tools and techniques that could be rapidly deployed during a crisis. Participants gathered in the UW Emergency Operations Center to monitored social media and key websites to identifying life-safety and other mission-specific information.  Additional VOST members connected from across Washington State, sharing data virtually using open-source tools such as Google suites and Slack.

The Apple Cup VOST had 3 primary missions:20171128_111350

  • Identify life safety information, including threats of violence and harassment
  • Identify misinformation that may merit correction by an official source
  • Identify individuals sharing positive posts about the Apple Cup

At the request of partners in Skagit County, a fourth mission was added: to monitor a real-world flooding incident.

UWEM would like to thank UWPD and UW-IT, the Whatcom County Community Emergency Response Team volunteers, and many others who came to the UW EOC and monitored social media virtually to support the Apple Cup.

If you are interested in participating in the Washington VOST, please contact Eli King: EliKing@uw.edu / 206-897-1882.