For most, summertime means sunny days and warmer weather. But for those living in areas near the Gulf Coast and the East Coast, the summer season can bring unpredictable tropical storms and hurricane formations. At Blackboard Connect, we have worked with numerous clients over the years to help local and community leaders effectively communicate with their residents before, during and after a storm.

Putting our knowledge and experience to good use, we have produced the Hurricane Playbook, an informative resource to help local officials prepare for the hurricane season. Download it here. Hurricane season officially begins today, June 1st,and with experts predicting an active season, it is critical to begin preparing response and recovery efforts.

Join our upcoming webinar to learn more about planning hurricane communications from the City of La Porte’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Jeff Suggs.  As La Porte’s EMC, Jeff weathered Hurricane Katrina and a direct hit from Ike and recently shared his hurricane communications expertise at the National Hurricane Conference this past March.  This webinar will help you avoid common mistakes and teach us all about the importance of coordinating with other local communities before a hurricane strikes.

In the meantime, here are a few steps local leaders can take to help ensure they are appropriately prepared:

1. Develop a communication plan in advance

It is extremely important to have a communica­tions plan prepared and ready to implement. There are several proactive measures that can help ensure seam­less communications in the event of a storm, and help coordinate a quick recovery and restoration effort if necessary. Review and revise your crisis communication plan well in advance of a hurricane.

2. Coordinate with other agencies

Coordinate efforts with other officials in your region for effective, efficient messaging. Work with other agencies, such as local fire departments, police and sheriff’s departments, and Emergency Medical Services to streamline messages and reduce duplicate communication. When appropriate, coordinate with neighboring jurisdic­tions to provide redundancy in communication systems.

3. Establish a single point of contact

During and immediately after a hurricane, there won’t be time to determine a spokesperson. Designate an Emergency Communications Director, who will rapidly assess the need for communications support and identi­fy, acquire and deploy resources to support critical emer­gency operations. This person should also have primary responsibility for communicating with the public, other agencies, and the media.

4. Develop backups and contingency plans

For each com­munication task, assign a backup who can assume the task if the primary communicator is unable to perform it. Develop alternate means of creating documenta­tion in the event that electronic systems are unavail­able. If you use a mass notification system, conduct a public registration drive at least annually, in order to devel­op the widest possible reach. Before a hurricane, or at least once a year, send messages to remind your community to develop a disaster preparedness kit and other supplies.

To learn more about how Blackboard Connect can help you communicate, visit our website.

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