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How Does Social Data Support Critical Event Management?

If a disaster struck your business right now, could you still effectively protect assets and avoid business disruption?

Let's say you manage a security operations center for a global enterprise. You’re attuned to new risks to personnel and facilities as some business functions remain remote and others reopen. Your emergency and business continuity management plan has never been more robust, and your organization invests in crisis response solutions.

So, if disaster struck, could you protect assets and avoid business disruption?

Maybe not, according to research in critical event management (CEM). A Forrester study found that up to 40% of organizations with a mature CEM strategy still require improvements in information-gathering tools like geospatial risk mapping and social media monitoring

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These are just two examples of online data that can support information gathering and improve situational awareness—both crucial early steps in effective critical event management. Without access to the right data at the right time, a slow or misinformed response could mean physical harm to assets, data theft, eroded reputation, financial costs, and business loss. 

Online data feeds also help organizations better track performance metrics, like detection times, so they can improve future responses—a valuable asset that even effective CEM strategies tend to lack.

What is CEM? And how does online data support information gathering for critical event management?

Critical Events: An Unavoidable Reality

Natural disaster, forest fire threat to city.
You might be wondering: what is a critical event?

A critical event is any incident that threatens an organization, its people, or its assets. That could mean anything from a natural disaster to a shooting or a data breach. As we’ve seen since the onset of COVID-19, a critical event often spans both digital and physical realms. 

They’re also more common than you might think: most companies experience at least one critical event every two years, and 60% face at least four in the same time frame. What’s more, the threat landscape is becoming more complex and unpredictable in the post-pandemic world as several events—from social unrest to supply chain disruptions—have changed security risk factors. As businesses reopen in 2021, 75% of security professionals anticipate an exponential rise in physical security threats.


Critical event management is a relatively new field that leverages technology (via a CEM platform) to address these challenges. CEM solutions help organizations:

  • Detect and respond to critical events faster through automation. For example, CEM software can sift through social media data and use AI to extract threat intelligence specific to critical locations, personnel, and other assets. This often results in earlier detection than relying on manual data analysis or on-site personnel.

  • Alert security and emergency operations centers in real-time when risk indicators surface. CEM solution providers like OnSolve provide mass notification systems to keep an entire organization up-to-date when they need to mobilize.

  • Improve data access to improve situational awareness and early information gathering. Comprehensive data cover also helps support more informed risk responses and enhances critical event management planning for future events. Currently, less than a third of companies have a system to document and share lessons learned from critical events.

  • Unify their CEM strategy for a holistic, org-wide response. A critical event in one business function creates a ripple effect across the organization. Industry data shows that integrating multiple operations in CEM, from IT to physical security, helps organizations respond to crises more effectively. CEM software acts as an information and communication hub for an integrated strategy. (For more information about developing a unified CEM strategy, check out 9 Steps to Critical Event Management.)

The goal of any CEM tool is ultimately to minimize or prevent damage to assets and help maintain business continuity during a critical event.

Improve Information Gathering with Online Data

man taking picture for social media post.
The foundation of effective critical event management is timely, accurate information. Traditional information-gathering processes, like on-site security teams and CCTV, are valuable. But online data sources provide the speed-to-information now required to protect business assets during a crisis. These sources also improve situational awareness by providing on-the-ground perspectives unavailable through other sources.

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How does online data support situational awareness for critical event management?

  • As bystanders capture or report a critical event, social media sites are often the earliest sources of ground-truth information. Authors on some of these sites can also geotag their location, which is valuable for finding threats near locations relevant to an organization’s assets.

  • If your facilities or personnel span the globe, access to localized news and social networks may be beyond the scope of your standard Google search. Specialized information-gathering tools can automatically detect critical events on multilingual and region-specific sites you might not know where to find.

  • Less-regulated social networks, chan boards, and alt-tech have more lenient content policies than mainstream social media. For security and emergency operations centers, these sites can provide early alerts like manifestos and planning that may precipitate a critical event like a shooting or terrorist attack.

  • Paste sites and dark websites provide early data breach indicators to support cybersecurity functions in incident management. Leaks like doxxing can also implicate physical security for high-profile personnel.

Overlooking any of these sources could mean a slow or misinformed CEM strategy when a crisis hits—so it’s crucial that your CEM software has comprehensive online data coverage. And because many of these sources are unindexed and hard to access, CEM software providers vary in which data feeds they offer and how extensive their coverage is.

This is why many security and emergency operations centre professionals turn to Echosec Systems to improve information gathering for CEM. Echosec Systems provides access to a wide range of social, news, deep, and dark websites in one platform to support early threat detection and situational awareness. Echosec Systems solutions also align with other tenets of critical event management—like supporting team integration through easy-to-use software and collaboration features.

According to OnSolve, 41.4% of corporate executives believe that timely response is the most challenging part of a crisis. Information gathering is one of the most critical stages for event management because the data sources you access can make the difference between early,  informed crisis response and asset damage.

In the digital age, online sources like social media are often the earliest source of threat indicators. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a cyberattack, this data is now necessary for real-time situational awareness and proactive response. By investing in specialized information-gathering tools and ensuring adequate coverage, your CEM strategy can stay one step ahead in even the most unpredictable threat landscape.

Are you overlooking any valuable data sources for critical event management?
Book a consultation to find out.