In November of 2014, the blizzard known as Winter Storm Knife dumped seven feet of snow in just 19 hours, blanketing the town of Hamburg, New York. The storm was responsible for many abandoned vehicles, house-bound residents, food shortages and road closures. It also threatened to bring flooding, building collapses and other challenges in its aftermath. Officials in Hamburg needed to share what they knew about the storm and its dangers with the townspeople to keep them safe.
Emergency Manager Sean Crotty in the Hamburg Office of Emergency Services is responsible for notifying residents of events like travel advisories, driving bans, boil water notices, severe weather warnings and more. Most events are layered and require multiple messages, like in the case of storms that brings traffic to a halt. Crotty knows that residents still need to take care of medical needs, plan around school closures and be aware that others are in similar straits.
When Winter Storm Knife hit Hamburg, Crotty and other town officials issued warnings before and throughout the storm. When snow levels got so high that heater-venting systems were likely to be blocked by snow, a life-saving notification was sent to all residents to advise them to keep vents clear to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Proactive communication affords us the opportunity to communicate during the many phases of a crisis and to provide timely and potentially lifesaving information. Over the course of the storm, which lasted five days, we sent out a series of alerts to remind people to take safety precautions to avoid hazards like carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Crotty. “We wanted to reach people in as many ways as we could, so we used Twitter and Facebook to alert those who use social media, and we used CodeRED to reach individuals by email, recorded phone calls, TDD and text alerts. It allows our Emergency Services to tell residents what is occurring, what to expect, what is being done and what they can do to help.”