2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season is Here!

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As the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season continues to grow at a record setting pace (an even higher rate than originally predicted by forecasters) Emergency Managers are critical to effective emergency communication. Experts are anticipating 25 named storms this season, according to the NOAA’s forecast, with almost half becoming hurricanes.

It’s crucial to get prepared as much as possible for the upcoming storms.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

Here are 5 hurricane preparation steps that Emergency Managers can take in advance to get ready for the season and communicate effectively during an emergency:

  1. Make sure you use all the tools available for delivering alerts to the public when the hurricane hits. Technology is improving quickly and there are more communication channels today than ever before. Relying primarily on one communication method is not a recommended strategy as people across the US consume content differently. For instance, older adults tend to rely more on older technology, such as landline phones, while a younger audience uses social media frequently.

The more communication channels you use, the better chance you will have to reach a larger audience. An effective solution is an  Emergency Notification System that lets you send out emergency alerts via multiple communication channels with just one click: landline phone calls, text messages, social media and email. This guarantees reaching as much of your community as possible.

Did you know that you can even send alerts over smart speakers now? Want to learn how? Click here for more information.

  1. Start preparing your community before the hurricane arrives. Those steps can include: sending updates on the hurricane status and what steps are being taken to protect those in the community, what steps experts recommend to take when the hurricane hits, engaging your audience to participate in discussion and posting updates on socials and your website. If your Emergency Management Agency, Sheriff’s Office or other offices that are responsible for sending out emergency alerts do not have a social media presence, it’s time to create them and encourage your residents to follow you for important updates and alerts. It’s also a great opportunity to remind people to sign up with your current Emergency Notification System if they yet haven’t done that and highlighting that they would have a better chance of receiving alerts and updates from you if they register. 
  1. Consider adding IPAWS – IPAWS technology lets you send severe emergency alerts to cell phones even if people are not signed up with your current Emergency Notifications system. It has become a powerful tool in delivering emergency alerts since more and more people rely on smartphones as a primary device of communication. Recent FEMA updates have made IPAWS messages an even more sophisticated tool. Now you can send up to 360-character messages, including links and pictures. Adding IPAWS to your Emergency Notification System can help fill in the gaps and reach even more people.
  1. Create message templates and focus more on dealing with an emergency during the storm. Templates will also help to eliminate ambiguity and errors , giving you more time to work on the correct formulation. Keep your templates simple and concise. Also, make sure your message is within the character limit. For example, Twitter messages length is up to 280 characters, IPAWS WEA messages – up to 360 characters, and SMS messages should not exceed 918 characters. It’s good to have these three types of message templates at your disposal:
    • Pre-storm templates – the purpose of this type of templates is to prepare your community for the hurricane. Send them updates of the hurricane status, provide advice on shelter in place and evacuation options etc.
    • Hurricane alert templates in the wake of the storm – just before a hurricane hits, you’ll need to send out the hurricane alert with an approximate time and area affected in the description.

Post-storm templates communicate on the recovery process. You may need to send out a “boil your water” or “blackout” alert as a consequence of the storm or inform people when they are safe to return to their home, etc.

5. Create an emergency plan for your staff. Identify who is responsible for what task and what role they will play. Arrange a staff meeting and share the plan. A detailed preparation plan will help you to eliminate confusion and react faster during a storm.

6. These sources provide useful information and will help you to stay updated: 

Effective emergency communication is about more than sharing accurate and timely information, it’s about helping your residents be ready to receive your information using their preferred communication method. The steps above will help to ensure that you are reaching a broad audience effectively. 

Help us help you and your peers: Let us know what your must-do hurricane preparation steps are in the comments below. We’ll be glad to share your best practices on our blog and social media.

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