Weathering the Storm: How Local Govs Can Balance COVID-19 and Severe Weather with Crisis Management Software

Michaela Sokol

Michaela Sokol


“Disasters don’t stop for a virus,” said former FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate. The Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1, and Penn State researchers’ have predicted 2020 to be one of the most active years for hurricanes on record. With the country already vulnerable, the looming threat of hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other seasonal severe weather, combined with COVID-19, is a recipe for disaster.

This situation requires a new kind of emergency response plan from both local governments and their communities’ participation.

COVID-19’s Impact on Emergency Response Teams

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Whether in pre-corona times or our ‘new normal’, natural disasters require focused management and significant manpower from local governments to best mitigate the repercussions. Now, with emergency response teams and local budgets already spread thin due to the pandemic, government officials and disaster response teams are concerned with their ability to provide relief effectively.

When property is damaged and residents have no choice but to evacuate, communities have been known to open their homes, shelters and communal spaces to their neighbors in need. Now with social distancing encouraged throughout the country, evacuation and sheltering will have extra complications. It is on local governments and leaders to work through these obstacles in order to keep residents safe.

Emergency workers and first responders are made up of a great variety of people. However, since the onset of the virus, first responders have undeniably been the most exposed, leaving many localities with a smaller response team. Devising a way to safely deploy first responders without exposing them to the virus has been a challenge, add in to the mix tornadoes, untameable wildfires and unpredictable storms, and you have a true recipe for a catastrophe. Additionally, emergency response groups are often made up of volunteers. Since the onset of the virus, volunteers have been unable to physically train or get necessary certifications, meaning fewer are readily available in case of an emergency.

How Local Governments can Leverage Software and Data in their Weather Management Efforts

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There are many crisis management preventative measures to take, including advanced planning and rehearsals. However, in life or death situations technology can help ten-fold, accelerating and expanding access to critical systems and resources. Including software like call management and email automation platforms, and social media monitoring tools into your emergency response and management plan, can make all the difference when combatting a natural disaster. 

Crisis management requires a proactive approach. Local governments are taking advantage of social media and online alerts to help spread awareness and important communications/digital resources in real time. The ability to communicate rapidly with those who are in need of information, is of the utmost importance when time is of the essence, and Zencity was built with this in mind. How does Zencity empower local governments as they manage crises like extreme weather? The innovative platform collects millions of resident and city-generated data points from a multitude of external and internal sources. Algorithms then work to sort through the data, offering both a comprehensive view of all relevant resident conversations, as well as a detailed segmentation into key topics, providing leaders with the insights they need in times of urgency. 

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How exactly are cities and counties leveraging Zencity in their severe weather management? Take Savannah, GA, for example. When Hurricane Dorian released its wrath across the Southeast at the end of 2019, Savannah, GA, used Zencity’s AI and data-based software in their crisis management actions. The local leaders were able to track all relevant online discussions from a variety of media sites and unofficial citizen service request pages and groups. This data helped them quickly understand which emergency weather resources worked better for their community. For example, after releasing two versions of evacuation maps for local media distribution, Zencity’s analysis enabled the City to identify which evacuation map was more effective. The influx of aggregated data helped the City of Savannah identify and rectify cases of life-threatening misinformation, and disseminate critical safety information based on data insights. In the past, the city administrators often had to guess whether instructions and safety information were effectively reaching the masses and meeting the needs of the community. Using software in their disaster response eliminated all guesswork and helped their local government navigate the severe weather with even better community-facing communication and resources.

Weather the Storm with Performance Management Software

No one could have predicted what summer 2020 would entail when the year began. While the season is known for its unpredictable weather in certain regions, add a global pandemic on top of that, and that can lead to pandemonium. Technologies and software like Zencity are a vital tool in your crisis management arsenal, whether it be a global pandemic or life-threatening storms. Artificial Intelligence and big data can help you eliminate theorizing and assumption from the equation, providing you with data-backed insights to confidently address any crisis head on.

Find out how our 130+ partner cities and counties are using Zencity to manage their crisis management efforts by requesting a demo