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Prepare for hurricane season with mass notification

June 1st through November 30th each year represents hurricane season and the Atlantic basin is expected to see above-normal activity this year, according to the seasonal outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Unlike most other severe weather events, hurricanes provide advance notice and time to prepare. The window leading up to a hurricane making landfall provides an incredible opportunity for the Emergency Manager to capitalize on the undivided attention of the general public. A successful Emergency Manager may find himself taking advantage of this time to deliver an aggressive public education and awareness campaign that will save lives and protect property when citizens are especially receptive. Below you’ll find three methods an Emergency Management Agency can employ, pre-storm, to communicate with citizens.

Mass Notification System Awareness and Sign Ups

Before the hurricane, have a mass notification system in place and take an opportunity to encourage residents to sign up for emergency alerts. Every Emergency Management Agency should have an effective, dependable and easy to use mass notification system. Your system should have the capability of delivering emergency messages from the EOC to citizens and responders via traditional landline telephone, mobile phone, text message and email. This communication tool should be used to provide life safety messages as well as general information before and after an incident, event or disaster. Messages delivered could include evacuation details, shelter locations, information for your special needs population, differences between watches and warnings, protective actions, specific storm or event updates, basic preparedness tips and where to obtain additional information.

Automated Weather Alerts

When severe weather warnings are posted by the National Weather Service (NWS), time is of the essence. Before the hurricane, research and acquire an early warning telephone system that will deliver weather warnings within moments of being issued by the NWS. The system should deliver targeted notifications to residents’ phones that are in the path of severe weather. With hurricanes and tropical storms the probability of multiple tornadoes forming in any one jurisdiction is very high; your system should automatically send notifications, without any effort from your staff, to give residents the needed time to prepare.

Mass Notification to Provide Additional Information 

In some jurisdictions outdoor warning devices, such as sirens and public address systems, are utilized to warn citizens. Either notification tool requires an extensive public education and awareness program to ensure everyone knows what the sirens are for and how they will be used. During severe weather season it’s not unusual to see news stories recounting citizen confusion about why outdoor warning devices are being used, or the inability for the devices to be heard. Before, during and after the hurricane, your mass notification system can be used to build awareness and educate citizens about your outdoor warning devices. And in cases when outdoor warning devices cannot be heard or may have malfunctioned, mass notification messages from your agency may be the most effective way to communicate with and protect your citizens.

By using a variety of techniques, your mass notification system will be one of the most valuable tools you have to deliver information in advance of a storm’s arrival. And citizens will appreciate that your Emergency Management Agency took the initiative to inform and prepare them for the impending storm.

“Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy.” — Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center