SBIR Phase I: Enhancing the Viability of Emergency Alerting over Social Media via a Collaborative Computer-Aided System for Handling Incoming Citizen Messages

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

8070 Georgia Avenue, #304
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


The innovation is a software engine that empowers emergency managers to analyze and process the high volume of incoming citizen messages (e.g., inquiries, calls for help, etc.) on the emergency manager's social media site(s) (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), typically experienced after an emergency alert is issued over one or more social media sites. The core of the Internet-connected software engine consists of two algorithms: a multivariate matching algorithm and a natural language processing algorithm. The matching algorithm optimally selects, based on a number of parameters, other emergency managers who can collaborate with the affected jurisdiction's emergency manager on handling the incoming messages. The natural language processing algorithm is employed to reorder incoming messages based on an intelligent keyword-driven prioritization method. The reprioritization is necessary since certain messages warrant more immediate attention than others. The broader/commercial impact of the innovation will be the societal benefit of enhancing the nation's emergency notification capability and effectiveness, which in turn bolsters the nation's emergency preparedness and response efforts, potentially saving lives during life-threatening emergencies. Emergency managers currently using social media for emergency alerting will attest to its power as an alerting tool in terms of reaching targeted citizens quickly, inexpensively, and with detailed information; while immediately establishing two-way communication with citizens for the purpose of receiving requests for assistance as well as eyewitness and first-hand accounts of situational developments. Yet, the same emergency managers will warn that the already large number of incoming messages is growing as more citizens join their social media accounts, which will eventually make it unviable/unsustainable for emergency managers to manually process all the incoming messages, especially during period after the alert is issued, when their efforts are focused on responding to the emergency incident. The proposed activity is aimed at developing an intelligent collaboration-based system that will keep the social media message-processing workload manageable during emergency response periods. The insurance-inspired business model for the service ensures affordability to emergency managers and commercial success for the business.