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Reaching Your Residents During Emergencies

August 21st, 2018


While we may or may not see another Harvey in the near future, there are countless catastrophes and unpredictable problems that could occur at any time. The list of potential dangers, predictable or unpredictable, can be expansive.

What kind of dangers?

  • Water not safe to drink
  • Sanitary sewer system back-up
  • Storm sewer flooding risks
  • Freezing weather and lines

While some of these risks can be mitigated, the degree and speed by which public sector responds can make the difference between residents experiencing actual damage or avoiding damages all together. Only by operating proactively as an entity and delivering crucial data and potentially life-saving information to residents quickly can you maximize mitigation potential.

What is the solution?

In short, during emergencies, having the latest and most accurate data and processes in place to ensure your residents can respond effectively is the key. Deployment of an Emergency Notification System and adoption of an Emergency Response Policy will ensure constituents are given every opportunity to respond and act during emergency conditions. Here are the tools to maximize the efficacy:

Have an emergency SMS system (text messaging platform)

An SMS platform allows texts to be sent out to thousands of residents within a very short window (think <5 minutes). This is not only vastly quicker dissemination than any mailed letter, door hanger, or door-to-door knocking ever could be, but in 2018 over 95% of the U.S. population owns a cell phone. 

Include links to a website

Text messages are limited to 160 characters each. Sometimes emergencies are more complex to explain than 160 characters allow. Solution? Embed a website link in the text.

If the district has a website, use it. A website can contain all the information necessary, along with photos, timelines, maps, videos, and any other data the residents truly need in order to respond adequately. 

If the district does not have a website, there are other options.

  1. Some operations companies may host an emergency page for their client districts wherein emergency info can be hosted. 
    Sample operations website with District page.


  2. Host a "diet" website for the District with only emergency information posts with a third party. Sample of third party district emergency website.

Adopt an Emergency Response Policy

When disaster strikes, make sure all the individuals and companies involved are all connected and know the procedure. Sewage Treatment Plant goes down? Operations prompts the issuance of the emergency alert. Communications team readies approved verbiage and map data from operations, posts it online for access, sends text message alert with the post link to the affected residents. The turn around time is dependent upon good protocol and execution is dependent upon good policy.

What is the end-user experience?

Residents will receive timely notifications with all the pertinent data needed to limit or avoid damage to property (or health) because their elected officials implemented these systems. 

You cannot prevent catastrophes, but there are better ways to mitigate them.


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