SCHINNEN, Netherlands -- In cooperation with emergency responders from the Municipality of Schinnen, the Province of Limburg, the Royal Dutch Marechaussee (KMAR) and the Dutch Ministry of Defense, U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen held an emergency response exercise May 16 with observer controllers from USAG Benelux, USAG Hohenfels and U.S. Army Europe.

The exercise began at 10 a.m. and the initial news report (notional) was broadcast on local radio in Dutch at approximately 10:25 a.m. The first official news resulted in a reporter calling the Public Affairs Office at around 11 a.m. shortly followed by an official news release.

A person acting as a victim in the exercise notionally called a family member who, in turn, alerted local media and the public before an official news release was written.

Meanwhile, a 10 a.m. posting on the USAG Schinnen Facebook page announcing that the front gate had closed was seen by approximately 500 Facebook users before 11 a.m., and more than 1,100 by noon. The number of users that saw the 2 p.m. announcement that the gate was open again was approximately 1,400 before 4 p.m. - fast, and for a small target audience of 7000 individuals age 0 to 75, not bad.

So, how should an English-speaking service or family member receive relevant breaking news, information and updates while assigned overseas' The answer is obviously an individual choice, but keeping pace by using social media is more and more an ideal option.

During the May 16 exercise, other media, such as American Forces Network and Canadian Forces Network, notionally received the official news release at 11:15 a.m. To pass the news on to English-speaking audiences, however, CFN and AFN have to fit it into their broadcasts and an individual needs to be turned-on and tuned-in to receive the information. Social media, meanwhile, is on a computer or smart phone ready to sound the alarm.

The grapevine network is another source of information, which arguably out-paces social media networks. Grapevines fed with accurate information from official social media sites can reach computers, tablet devices and smart phones long before conventional media. Once a smart phone gets the message, then a user can help spread the word or the alarm - accurately.

In fact, at the conclusion of the exercise our Dutch emergency responders were encouraged to follow USAG Schinnen on Facebook or Twitter.

The Army Public Affairs mission in a crisis is to alert, inform and reassure U.S. audiences and the public. Reassurance can be achieved if service and family members enable their local Army garrison to provide information by email, Facebook, Twitter or other social media used by their garrison.

So get ready by getting connected. USAG Schinnen's Facebook page is configured to automatically release information on the USAG Schinnen Twitter site. Connect to one, the other, or both!

Following USAG Schinnen on one of these two social media sites, or providing email addresses to, enables personnel in the tri-border region to receive notifications for the next flea market -- or crisis.

To connect to the social media site used by your garrison in Europe, look in the right-hand column on this story and follow the link to the IMCOM-Europe website then look under the "Garrison" tab in the left column. Connect today!

Something happens at 10 a.m., it's now after 11:30 a.m.,... tick, tick, tick, is there something you should know'

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16