July 13, 2015

OS Info OS Info OS Info

Hashtags originally began as a computer coding function and Internet relay chat channel identifier, but became popular as a primary function of Twitter and most social media platforms.1 If someone were to search for #OpenSource they would be linked to a variety of content relevant to the phrase paired with the hashtag. The usefulness of a hashtag - and by extension open source content - extends beyond a simple character. Recently, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, ISIS postulants, used #texasattack prior to launching their attack in Garland, Texas.2 Within a week of the attack in Texas, #londonattack began trending, coupled with pictures of Kalashnikov rifles and explosives, but the attack never transpired.3

Hashtags are only one small component of the Open Source Information (OS Info) course. Oliver Jacob, a paramedic and dispatcher from Syracuse, acknowledged that he already possessed many of the basic open source skills, but the course allowed him to "translate those basic skills for application in real life events." Jacob also felt the course provided a substantial resource for local first responders "to capitalize on existing technology because they may only have a small IT section and most open source information is free." One of the main programs covered, Google Earth, is something that Jacob uses regularly as a dispatcher.

"When I am dispatching, I am always active. In one call, we had a stroke patient and I was aware that there were road issues going to our normal hospital. So, while communicating to the Ambulance, I jumped on Google Earth and found a different route that would take them to another hospital with a stroke center in a shorter period of time."

– Oliver Jacob, Paramedic

Patrick Lathrop, another student and employee of St. Peter's Hospital, had less of an open source foundation when he enrolled in OS Info. "The course really identified holes in my knowledge regarding open source information," shared Lathrop. He will use the information and skills gained from the course while he works on his department's Emergency Operations Plan. He also intends to present some of course concepts to management in order to increase information sharing between the newly expanded hospitals that fall under St. Peter's.

Whether it's hashtags or how to use Google Earth, OS Info provides more than just a few tips and techniques for gathering information. As Patrick Lathrop pointed out, it allows that same information to be shared to a much greater extent. OS Info provides a platform for facilitating that information sharing among stakeholders, making it both timely and essential in an era where information sharing is no longer a desire, but a requirement and expectation laid out by federal, state and local agencies.

1. Chris Messina. "Groups for Twitter; or A Proposal for Twitter Tag Channels." August 23, 2007. Achieved October 12, 2007.

2. Jeff Pegues. "FBI issued warning ahead of Texas attack." May 7, 2015.

3. Tom Batchelor. "ISIS Terrorists warn of imminent attack on streets of London." May 13, 2015.