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Saving lives using social media (Part 2)

Real Time Crisis addresses the paradigm shift in communication and recognizes the necessity of need to improving services in light of shrinking resources

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series written by the members of the Real Time Crisis, made up of law enforcement, health care and education professionals who are actively seeking those in need of help through social media sites and directing them to a safe online community where they can consistently receive aid — reducing the number of emergency calls for police and other first responders. This confidential and private community then becomes a first point of contact for those in need of help. Read Part 1 here.

By Jse Che Lam

Imagine stopping someone from committing suicide because someone saw their tweet or Facebook post stating they were going to jump in front of a train, reported it to 911, and immediately the police, social worker or nurse tweeted the train crew to stop the train. The train crew ends up saving a life, and prevents several more from being inconvenienced due to a police investigation on the railway tracks. Sound like a movie? It is not.

Meeting the Needs of the Community
Social media is less threatening for those who do not engage easily with others and who can disclose more readily online.

Real Time Crisis ensures that those in crisis mode can receive an immediate response and appropriate support that prevents further harm to the individual in question or danger to the community.

Lived Experiences Real Time Crisis committee member Andrew Stewart recognizes the protective layer that social media offers to individuals who are emotionally fragile or socially isolated.

“There is nothing like this,” said Stewart. “Look at a person who is yelling at random people on the subway and think, ‘If they could get the proper help they might be stable.’ Look at teenager who is suicidal and find the flashpoint, the point where they don't know where to turn for help.”

“Success and safety is important in the sense that everyone has the right to feel safe,” said Nadia Fordham, a community volunteer. “When someone is in his/her darkest of days, one person reaching out can mean establishing a relationship that will make the difference. Success, safety, and determination — key elements to building an effective Real Time Crisis team — are crucial.”

Meeting the Needs of the Organization
One of the stresses on law enforcement agencies is performance assessment that is measured in response times. Real Time Crisis is focused on prevention and addresses the reality of staff allocation, especially when one emergency call could tie up several units.

Access to resources as well as a network of community supports ensures safety for all involved — citizens, bystanders, and first responders — as well as efficiency in delivering the right kind of help to someone in crisis mode.

A situation requiring a crisis management approach need not result in a trip to ER or end in an arrest.

A collaborative approach between law enforcement, health care professionals, and community partners would reduce the necessity of police involvement in all situations that result in a 911 call.

Connecting the Right People
Real Time Crisis has a technological and social media component to its success, and it requires the personnel possessing the right training as well as the right skills set. Toronto constables Nathan Dayler and Scott Mills work closely together, using social media for emergency management in the Public Safety Unit of Toronto Police Service. Mills believes that a police agency must focus on three primary areas when training their officers in the use of social media, which are crucial to the future success of Real Time Crisis.

1. The candidate must possess the potential for front line relationship building, demonstrating both care and willingness to work with the community and establishing the relationships needed.

2. Intelligence officers must understand the benefits of social media and have the know-how to identify information that is credible and reliable.

3. Command officers must understand social media and ensure that front line officers and intelligence officers are communicating effectively to each other.

“We have been living and breathing ‘saving lives using social media’ tools since 2004,” said Dayler. “We have stopped school shootings, prevented suicides, and are seeing people using social media to report emergency management issues relating to mental health increasingly more every day.

“We need a coordinated response locally, nationally and internationally. The education, training and infrastructure needed are monumental. Our goal is to provide the visual structure to do this. We are going to start small, with the goal to make Real Time Crisis an integral part of worldwide success and safety. Who knows, maybe an organization like Crime Stoppers can one day incorporate the structure into their worldwide system.”

The real difference of this endeavor is that there are group members with lived experiences who are supportive, and part of the dialogue to solutions.

The words of Nadia Fordham are very important to understand: “Success and safety is important in the sense that everyone has the right to feel safe. When someone is in their darkest of days, if there is one person reaching out, and if the person is accepting of that hand, then there's a new relationship. Relationships are not built on looks; they are built on success, safety, and determination, which are key elements to Real Time Crisis. We come from many walks of life but have the same dream for this project. But we also want to expand so that the rest of the community can work with us and see that good things can and will happen if we work together. Working together everyone achieves more.”

Saving Lives with a SMILE
At February’s Social Media and the Internet in Law Enforcement (SMILE) conference, Andrew Stewart contributed to the Real Time Crisis presentation via Hangout On Air, which can be viewed, here.

“Real Time Crisis is a program run by the people for the people in order to assist those individuals in crisis,” said Stewart. “Whether it be suicide or just a bad day, we need people around the clock ready to lend a helping hand.

“It will be free to the public but also needs private funding. I ask corporations who care for their city so much to act and help out. When this project is finished it will blow your mind away. Kids being abused deserve some help. Bullied victims deserve your help. The countless teens that attempt suicide deserve your help.

“We owe it to the people that hold strong values and good hearts but can't show that without your help. One voice can change the world. And I am confident that the Real Time Crisis prevention and intervention strategy can do that. If we had had this center last July I can almost guarantee two innocent teens I know of would not be dead. They deserve our voice.”

Street Nurse Anne Marie Batten, and Board of Directors Jesse Miller., Lauri Stevens, and Scott Abrams contributed to this report.

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