Florida Partners with Everbridge, Enhances Hurricane Dorian Communication

Preparing for a major disaster, Florida leveraged Everbridge’s Resident Connection to expand the state’s reach in critical communications during Hurricane Dorian.

by Brian Toolan, Everbridge / October 10, 2019
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Preparing for a major disaster, Florida leveraged Everbridge’s Resident Connection to expand the state’s reach in critical communications during Hurricane Dorian.

On Aug. 24, 2019, a tropical wave in the Atlantic Ocean grew into Tropical Storm Dorian. Over the next few days, Dorian gained strength and became a hurricane on Aug. 28 as it passes over the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, while on a path to impact Florida. By Aug. 30, Dorian was a major category 4 hurricane and was only hundreds of miles away from Palm Beach County, Fla. On Sept. 1, Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas as a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185mph with over 200mph wind gusts. At this time, Dorian began to slow down and batter the northern Bahamas while still on track to impact Florida.

Even before Dorian turned into a major hurricane, emergency management officials across Florida began preparing for any potential impact to their communities, should Dorian strike. One of those ways was an assessment of emergency communication outreach capabilities to residents. Earlier this year, the Florida Division of Emergency Management renewed its statewide AlertFlorida emergency notification system with Everbridge through 2024. The critical alerting platform, which includes automated weather warnings, is being leveraged by 64 of 67 counties and well over 280 cities in Florida. While Dorian was gaining strength, it was becoming apparent Florida would be impacted by this major storm. As state and local officials began preparing for the worst, one question was on their minds: How can we expand our communications capabilities to maximize outreach to citizens? The answer: Everbridge’s Resident Connection.

Hurricane Dorian forecast on August 30,2019

With the forecast looking like Dorian may impact the Florida peninsula as a major hurricane, the state once again partnered with Everbridge to secure the Resident Connection service for all counties in the state. Everbridge Resident Connection adds residential and business landline, VoIP and wireless data to each public warning system and is updated monthly. The result is a tremendous increase in notification outreach. The state went from being able to send notifications to 10.4 million residents to over 29 million, and most Florida counties saw their contact count double, resulting in the ability to reach even more citizens in the event of evacuations or other life-threatening situations.

Above, the total contacts in the FDEM account before Resident Connection. Below, after adding Resident Connection.

However, what is the true value of adding this data and not just using FEMA’s WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) capability instead? Certainly, WEA is a valuable resource, and one that can send a push notification to cellphones, but who and how many actually receive it is unknown. Plus, many have disabled these alerts on their cellphones. Additionally, the message sender is limited to only 90 characters with WEA, and the reality of notifying far beyond the geographical area into neighboring jurisdictions is unavoidable. With Everbridge Resident Connection, your geo-targeted messages reach the exact area that you intended to notify, and you get confirmation of not only who you reached but when you reached them. Combining notifications through WEA while targeting your citizens with Resident Connection maximizes your total outreach to both residents and transient populations. So how did Everbridge Resident Connection actually help counties in Florida prepare for Hurricane Dorian?

In Duval County, emergency management officials issued an evacuation notification across the county. Before Resident Connection, the county would have reached 1,194,822 residents. With Resident Connection deployed, the county was able to reach 1,790,704 residents — an increase of 595,882 residents. In Brevard County, Resident Connection was leveraged to send an evacuation order to 99,260 residents within the evacuation zone; previously they would have only reached 40,451 residents. In the city of Deerfield Beach, a citywide notification was sent to residents to keep them informed of the city’s measures in preparation of the storm. The notification was able to be sent to 155,024 residents with Resident Connection. Without it, the city would have only reached 47,397 residents. The ability to notify 107,627 previously unreachable residents ensures public safety officials are doing everything possible to keep their citizens safe during emergencies.

While Hurricane Dorian made a turn north and tracked further east, FDEM (Florida Division of Emergency Management) was able to mitigate any deficiencies in contacting Floridians and maximize the AlertFlorida network outreach by leveraging Everbridge’s Resident Connection.

About the author

Brian Toolan is the Director of Government Strategy for Everbridge and previously served as the Sr. Technical Account Manager for Everbridge, deploying the AlertFlorida system throughout the state of Florida. Before joining Everbridge, Brian spent 25 years in public safety while working for the state of Connecticut.

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