Eagle County: Prepared for Natural Disasters

Eagle County used Google Maps Platform and G Suite to redesign its emergency operations center and improve the delivery of vital crisis information to Colorado residents during natural disasters.

by GOOGLE / December 4, 2018

With terrain ranging from rugged, snowy mountain peaks to lush valleys, Eagle County, Colorado can experience its fair share of natural disasters, from dramatic weather events to fires and floods. During certain seasons, these conditions can become dangerous and Eagle County Government officials are always looking to improve how they broadcast emergency information. More than 50,000 Coloradans call Eagle County home and the county also hosts hundreds of thousands of tourists throughout the year, all there to enjoy the beauty of the Colorado Rockies.

“There is absolutely no time to waste in a disaster,” says Jill Ryan, Eagle County Commissioner. “For the safety of all of our residents, visiting tourists, and emergency response teams, we needed a way to quickly communicate important information to help ensure everyone’s safety.”

Eagle County solved this problem by centralizing its crisis management approach. By reorganizing its emergency operations center (EOC) around Google Maps Platform and cloud solutions, the county is helping ensure that the tools are on hand to respond quickly to dangerous events.

Keeping everyone informed

The Lake Christine Fire, which started in July 2018, created many challenges for Eagle County officials. Beginning outside Basalt, Colorado, the fire burned more than 12,000 acres throughout the region. Within this high-pressure scenario, Eagle County planned to migrate its emergency operations center to Google Cloud.

Maps was a central part of the county’s communication strategy, as Eagle County needed a solution that could serve as an emergency information portal for both residents and tourists. As part of this strategy, the county created a Lake Christine Fire map that posted real-time updates during the wildfire: people could see information including road closures, driving directions, and evacuation center locations. Active hyperlink support also meant that county officials could efficiently redirect people to other emergency pages right within Maps.

“Government done well speaks to people where they are, and people are in Google Maps so it was critical, particularly during a crisis, to convey important information in a familiar platform. We need to know vital emergency news can be quickly viewed and shared.”
Brandon Williams, Innovation and Strategy Manager, Eagle County Government

For potential floods following the fire, the county also exported its internal analysis information and created a second map that residents could use to see if their homes fell within a flood risk zone. With this map, at-risk homeowners could easily learn about insurance subsidies and other flood resources.

Despite the high stakes, the move to Maps was a success for the employees in Eagle County. The ease of use for accessing the app made the fire map a crucial public outreach tool. As developments came in, EOC staffers could push real-time updates and provide residents with live information without having to manually update the county site for every instance.

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To learn more about how the Google Maps Platform and G Suite enabled Eagle County to improve the delivery of vital crisis information to Colorado residents during natural disasters, download the paper "Eagle County: Prepared for natural disasters."

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