The recent threat of two tropical storms aimed at Florida provides a great lesson for all of us in the emergency management/public safety arena. Many of us still carry the conceived notion that our emergency mass notification system is primarily for evacuations during the response phase of a disaster. While it is very important to use the system during a disaster incident to make those timely evacuation calls, we often overlook the times in which our mass notification system could have been used to accomplish other public safety alerts, warnings and to pass on important preparedness information.
As was the case in Florida recently, we had several days’ notice about the storms and the TV meteorologists kept us glued to the weather news broadcasts to see the latest forecast and track predictions. The days leading up to a storm provided TV Stations with their highest viewer ratings as we are all captivated by the headlines. Many CodeRED clients in this area took this large audience opportunity to work with the TV stations to provide information about their plans, preparedness tips and information about their emergency notification systems that would be used during the event to keep the public informed.
Sharing this information at the most opportune time goes a long way with your community. You are reaching your best captive audience using yet another source of delivery. These television stations are hungry for this information and welcome the opportunity to be a public safety partner with you for this type of event. While sharing the preparedness information, you should also highly publicize your notification system and urge the public to visit your webpage to opt-in any additional contact information. We often see a significant spike in opt-in data during pre-storm activities.
Many of our Florida clients took full advantage of their CodeRED systems during the pre-storm period of Tropical Storm Erika to keep their citizens aware of the pending threat and provide details about where to get additional information, where to track the forecast themselves and to share flood advisories in anticipation of a worst case scenario. Fortunately, the winds associated with the storms significantly diminished prior to making any landfall and reduced the threat of a hurricane; however, the rainfall amounts were very high in some regions and did cause flooding dangers.
Many lives were touched by these proactive emergency managers through the use of their CodeRED systems during the pre-storm days and throughout the actual storm itself. Over 2 million calls were launched by CodeRED toward this cause, predominately pre-storm. Always consider using your notification systems during the pre-storm period—it may save lives.
In addition to the phone calls to the citizens, ALWAYS include the CodeRED Mobile Alert app as an additional source of message delivery. It not only reaches some of your citizens but it also provides a greater opportunity of reaching your visitors and transient travelers passing through the area. Also, don’t forget to promote the app subscription to your citizens—it’s a great notification resource.
Don Hall is ECN’s Director of Government Relations and is a regular contributor on our blog. Hall’s public safety career experience includes 20 years as an Emergency Manager in Calvert County, Md., Jacksonville, FL and Washington, D.C. He also spent 10 years in law enforcement and 911 emergency communications and has 42 years of active duty experience in the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service in Maryland. He has managed and directed more than 30 Presidential Disaster Declarations during his emergency management career and received numerous public safety- related awards and citations.