Ball, Amandal
Amanda Osborne, MedFlight Outreach Coordinator

About a decade ago, while social media was still in its infancy for organizations like ours, I “took over the reigns” as administrator for MedFlight’s social accounts.  At that time, we had a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and had been posting friendly, benign messaging.  There was no real “training” to send me to at that time… I learned as I went, as most “social media experts” did (and still do), fitting the work in when I had the time between other work duties and real-life to-do lists.

After a few years of self-training, research, and a lot of real-life experience, successes and stumbles, I was able to find a FEMA/DHS-level social media course that focused on the usage of social media in disaster management.  To say that course opened my eyes would be an understatement.  Established and vetted public service social media administrators led the course and reiterated the importance of a consistent presence online during both “blue sky” and “gray sky” days, the importance of social media policy (internal and external), and the importance of protecting your online privacy.

I was hooked, and the class reiterated that my own “self-training” was paying off… MedFlight was ahead of the curve with a lot of these practices already in place.  A few months later, I became an instructor of the class, and now teach three FEMA-level social media courses to government and public safety personnel, nationwide.

Your online privacy and identity as a community member, and healthcare provider, are very important…  In this day and age, it does not take much for information posted online to go ‘viral’… perhaps seeping out of the post’s original context and creating a larger problem once shared without the accompanying story.  We recognize that social media can be a great communication tool and a great way for families and loved ones to connect… but it can also be a hub of misinformation and safety threats.  Because of this, we’ve always taken proactive steps at MedFlight to help protect our employee’s online presences.  Here are a few:    

Employee last names are not utilized in posts, their badges “pixelated” when possible to protect their identity.  “Photo credit” is not given to crew members if they take the photo and share it with me for organization use.   All photos shared on MedFlight accounts are reviewed and approved.  All social media posts are archived.  We drafted an internal social media policy.  Why do we go through so many steps?  To protect and respect the online identities of MedFlight team members. 

What you can do to stay safe online:

  1.  Don’t post anything to your social media accounts that you don’t want a stranger to know, you don’t want a partnering agency to see, etc.  Everything you post online (including comments, “likes” and pictures) can be recorded and shared… regardless of your privacy settings.  Could a screenshot of a direct message be shared outside of the private setting you thought it existed in?  Absolutely.
  2. Do not “tag” yourself, or team members, in agency posts or comments.  When you do this, you are opening yourself up to unwanted friend requests or “follows” from people you may not know, or want to know, outside of work.  Which leads to my third point…
  3. Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know personally and well.  An example: A member of one of our flight teams greeted the critically-ill patient’s family at the beginning of a transport and introduced herself.  The flight time was approximately 30 minutes to the receiving hospital, and, in that time, she had received a “friend request” on Facebook from a member of that patient’s family.  She declined the request once she saw it that evening.  Your account’s settings should ensure your page is as private as possible to those you are not connected with.
  4. Review your social media privacy settings often… the platforms often update your settings on your behalf as they add features to the platform, and you can change them back to ensure your privacy is protected.
  5. “Lock down” your account’s public content as much as you can.  Example: You publically list your address, phone number, and birthdate on your Facebook “About” section.  Your profile picture is a great selfie, and your cover photo showcases your home and children’s faces.  On Instagram and Twitter, you “check in” out of state at different vacation spots while you travel with your family.  A criminal now has a lot of information that confirms you are not at home.  You have also listed your last name, your hometown, your children’s approximate ages with the photo… would it take much work for a stranger to figure out which school they go to?  It does not take much for info you post to get into the wrong hands, and for chaos to ensue.
  6. Consistently review online safety with your coworkers and community leaders.  An internal policy and training program is vital.
  7.  Use two-factor authentification features to help protect your account from hackers, and sign out of your account on every device once you are done viewing it… including on your phone.
  8.  Steer clear of public wifi hotspots when accessing your personal information online.  There are less security measures on public wifi, allowing hackers to access your information quicker.

Remain “situationally aware” while navigating online, and your real-life information will remain as secure as possible.  Take an active role in your online safety!

Find out more about protecting your online privacy: staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/