Severe weather is a top concern for public safety officials, especially given what the U.S. has gone through over the last 18 months. Last summer, wildfires scorched the West Coast, burning more than 10 million acres total. Recently, Hurricane Claudette, only the third named hurricane of the season, killed 13 people in Alabama, raising concerns that the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico are in for another active hurricane season.
After a record-breaking 22 weather disasters caused damages totaling over $96B in 2020, public safety officials have to take steps to minimize the devastating consequences nature can have on our lives. More specifically, these officials must ensure community members have the resources they need to stay safe and make informed decisions. Fortunately, technology can significantly increase the effectiveness of preparedness efforts.
With the right tools and systems, disseminating crucial information to at-risk populations is easy. Leaders can help people prepare for and navigate challenging weather-related conditions, as well as increase public resiliency in the face of ever-increasing extreme weather events.
Below are three best practices for public safety officials to consider as they fortify their communities this summer.
1. Send Consistent and Clear Updates and Alerts
One of the best ways to assist vulnerable people in the face of severe weather concerns is to communicate updates consistently through reliable channels. People need information from trusted sources indicating where they can get critical resources, like shelter and food, and where they can turn for additional help.
Furthermore, public officials need to give clear directions residents can follow to stay safe in dire circumstances. Officials must avoid overwhelming people with too much background information or unnecessary details. Instead, they should focus on giving residents exactly what they need, unambiguous timelines and specific instructions on how to protect themselves.
Equally as important is to think hard about the best way to share these updates, recognizing that people interpret urgency differently depending on how they receive alerts. Consider reserving text messages and voice calls for near-term emergencies and email for those with longer time horizons.
2. Tailor Messaging to Specific Audiences
It’s also important to segment your audience so that you can deliver tailored messages to specific groups. With respect to severe weather warnings, it often makes sense to segment community members by geography or proximity to certain dangers. This is also where technology can assist with automated weather alerts to key personnel or the public.
Doing so minimizes the potential for people to experience “alert fatigue,” increasing the likelihood that they will take warnings seriously. It also helps increase the value and helpfulness of your messages, as you can share additional details that will be especially relevant to the target audience.
More advanced platforms provide this functionality and make it easy for users to upload resident information, segment audiences and craft unique messages that go out at scheduled or recurring times. Even better, the best systems available will allow for two-way communication and polling of users to quickly solicit information from target audiences.
3. Collaborate with Schools, Businesses and Other Organizations
Emergency response, no matter the incident, should be a coordinated effort. Public safety must work with other entities – schools, businesses, non-government organizations, etc. – to make sure all community members receive the services they need to withstand severe weather. Wildfires, droughts and hurricanes don’t discriminate between students, employees, full-time residents or visitors, so the burden is on public safety to keep every group safe.
Police departments, fire departments, emergency management teams and more should coordinate response efforts seamlessly. Lean on your community’s broader emergency response ecosystem to create a more comprehensive strategy against severe weather.
Again, leading emergency response platforms can facilitate inter-departmental collaboration, task management, resource tracking, and streamline communication across cross functional or cross jurisdictional teams. Public safety officials who use these systems can ensure that no effort is wasted and that everyone is on the same page.
After a challenging past year, implementing these types of strategies is essential for local government leaders who want to strengthen trust with community members and keep people safe.
This article was authored by Todd Miller, SVP of Strategic Programs at Rave Mobile Safety.