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Hurricane Season: How Public Safety Officials Keep Us Safe

Government officials and public safety representatives have already finalized their various response strategies — or are in the process of finalizing them — to ensure the full safety of all citizens in their jurisdictions.

A palm tree with its branches being blown sideways in strong winds.
Fall is quickly approaching, meaning those across the Atlantic, Southeast and southern parts of our country are about to enter one of the more dangerous weather times of year — hurricane season. While this annual storm occurrence is officially between June and November, the frequency of these natural disasters typically picks up toward the end of August and throughout September. In fact, Sept. 10 is the peak average time for the beginning of the season.

By now, government officials and public safety representatives have already finalized their various response strategies — or are in the process of finalizing — to ensure the full safety of all citizens in their jurisdictions. These plans will need to be at their best this year as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted an above-normal hurricane season for 2022, even though the season is off to a slow start, according to experts.

Even with the fairly quiet start to this year’s hurricane season, each response strategy across the affected areas must be thorough to ensure no stone is left unturned. That includes implementing chains of command, evacuation procedures for citizens and officials complete with routes and exits, equipment hubs, procedures for accounting for persons and much more. Along with these vital principles, all response and management strategies must include steps to create and maintain effective and real-time communications between all responding parties, which should be priority No. 1 in most cases.

Whether it’s during the training phase, strategy development meetings, or in the thick of assisting citizens during a storm arrival, the presence of consistent, real-time and informative communications for all agencies is paramount in the execution throughout hurricane season, and beyond for that matter. Any communication and collaboration faults throughout the entire process can lead to massive complications in regards to damages and, more importantly, citizen safety.

This article will take an in-depth look at three communication keys for officials and public safety personnel to prioritize as they develop, finalize and carry out their emergency response strategies this fall.


Preparing for and responding to a crisis, such as tropical storms, is a team effort. There are numerous and continuous moving parts, and all response parties and necessary officials need to be able to get on the same page fast before any critical information or resources are lost or not transmitted to the correct lines. Time is always of the essence, no matter if it is during the preparation or execution phases. One moment too long can make all the difference. One route officials and their organizations can use is interoperability with their neighboring agencies and departments.

Interoperability has become essential for public safety agencies because its effective and efficient practice can be exceptionally beneficial for crisis responses and management tactics. This is reflected in a recent Verizon study, where first responder participants reported the importance of interoperability while in the line of duty. Ninety-three percent said coordination between agencies is critical when responding to public safety crises and 80 percent said having interoperability itself was also a necessity. However, the traditional ways of communicating, like email or SMS texting, haven’t been giving leaders the right solution for productive collaboration, such as leveraging interoperability in their efforts.

Luckily, we’re in the golden age of communications technology where agencies can use various messaging platforms on their cellular devices, laptops and desktop computers to share information in a timelier fashion, making interoperability more feasible. It’s on their agency leaders and local government officials to fully embrace and prioritize interoperability and the impact it can have on human safety during this dangerous season.


Facing a crisis without the right tools puts everyone at risk — first responders, other responding personnel and even citizens. Response teams must be equipped with the most up-to-date and ideal resources to execute their tasks, and this includes tools they can use to communicate effectively throughout hurricane season.

As discussed above, the current advancements in messaging technology have created a wide array of messaging programs for first responders to use, and they have been taking advantage of these opportunities. Seventy-two percent of first responders are already using their mobile phones on duty today, outpacing the former go-to communication method of land mobile radio systems. With this, a crucial part of disaster preparation is getting public safety personnel set up with instinctive communication and dispatch apps on their phones to expedite relevant messaging and full coordination among participating parties. This fosters that all-important interoperability that responders and safety personnel need in today’s world.

Keeping this in mind, leaders and officials must be mindful of identifying platforms that best suit their agencies and how they work together. They must also be cognizant of platforms that are secure from hackers and compliant with relevant laws and regulations. The last thing public safety officials need in the midst of managing a storm disaster is valuable information falling into the wrong hands or being noncompliant through a lackluster messaging app.


During emergencies, information can be fast-flowing and sometimes overwhelming for responding personnel and citizens trying to understand each bit as it comes in. To avoid confusion and indecisiveness, it’s paramount to keep all intelligence and resources organized so they’re distributed to the correct parties when needed. Officials and agency leaders can take a big step in ensuring this during the preparation process.

Once leaders have identified responding agencies and implemented an intuitive communications platform to aid in response collaboration, they can begin separating each organization into chat groups based on their responsibilities. Police, fire and EMS teams can be set in one group with their captains and team leads in another, or even intertwined. Government officials and city leaders can be included as well so that they are in the loop at necessary times. Chat groups and channels should also be able to be modified throughout as situations arise and develop, along with any new parties entering the response efforts.

These preparation efforts will make an immense impact on the flow of information and resources to relevant parties throughout hurricane response this fall. It will also enhance the distribution of information to citizens, whether through social media, news networks or smartphone alerts. Information will be concise, clear and communicated correctly thanks to proper pre-storm decision-making by agency leaders.

So much goes into the preparations ahead of hurricane season for many of our communities along the coastal lines. Implementing and ensuring proper communications must be at the top of their lists if it’s not already. As another intense season approaches, implementing the above principles will be paramount for our public safety personnel and officials aiding citizens throughout this storm season and beyond.

Jeff Halstead is a former chief of police and current co-founder and president of Evertel.