As powerful winter storms sweep across the United States, receiving critical safety information can mean life or death for some. With over 67%* of the US covered in snow this week, government entities across the US are hunkered down, making sure the public gets the information and resources they need to make life-saving decisions about travel, shelter, and more.
In Minnesota, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul began promoting their winter weather communications weeks ago. While government organizations typically use various channels to post weather information (like social media), the main focus in these cities was to collect subscribers by requesting email addresses and phone numbers in advance, through print mailers, television, and radio advertisements. By continuously building lists they own, these two cities ensure they can communicate with, and actually reach, the largest number of people possible (instead of hoping citizens saw a Facebook post or tweet about winter weather).
In addition to reaching out before the winter season begins, another imperative moment to collect subscribers is when a storm actually hits. A flurry of traffic will flow into government web properties, creating the perfect opportunity to get a larger percentage of the population signed up to inclement weather information.
The City of Minneapolis also offers a contextual sign-up link on all of its winter weather information web pages to grab the attention of anyone looking for snow information while browsing the website. This is the best opportunity to convert web visitors into direct subscribers of their digital information. And by cross-promoting other subscription topics from the city to those who sign up for snow information, Minneapolis is able to grow its audience for many other departments such as public safety, transportation, or parks and recreation.
Over the past few days, hundreds of thousands of email and SMS alerts were sent by government organizations using GovDelivery to warn members of the public about impending severe weather. Through email and SMS messages, organizations are able to alert subscribers days or hours in advance of approaching storms. Using GovDelivery automation tools, Maine Emergency Management Agency and the City of Baltimore were able to trigger these messages using localized content from the National Weather Service. If someone is traveling or unable to get information from a televised weather report, an email to their inbox or SMS text message to their phone is the most efficient way to proactively inform them.
Keeping travelers safe in the midst of slippery roads, downed trees, or detours also requires mass communication. State agencies like Oregon Department of Transportation send winter weather driving warnings and preparation tips.
The Washington Department of Transportation sends real-time SMS text messages to inform travelers about road conditions and whether or not snow tires are necessary. With real-time alerts, travelers can find out what’s happening on roads throughout the state without having to constantly check Twitter or the department’s website.
They get the information they need, controlling what updates they receive by subscribing only to the topics they want. And, maybe most importantly, if there’s a critical road closure, the SMS or email message that alerts residents and visitors to a potentially life-threatening road event can help save lives and protect property.
The public also needs to be informed of office and building closures or the temporary suspension of services. Instead of waiting for citizens to call in about shelter information or building closures, the City of Auburn, Washington and the City of Dallas, Texas use GovDelivery to proactively send information about shelter locations, hours of operation, and closures of buildings and services. These communications reducestrain on internal resources by keeping the public updated before, during, and after a severe storm.
While many parts of the United States are already in the thick of the winter storm season, it’s not too late to reach out to existing subscribers to get them to sign up for life saving weather information. The City of St. Paul sends a yearly email to remind citizens to update their contact information, provide resources, and encourages them to share weather communications with their friends and family. It’s also a great idea to set a calendar reminder to send a similar email reminder next Fall.
With pending severe weather across the country, it’s more important than ever to leverage the GovDelivery to provide citizens with the critical information they need to stay safe. For more tips on how to make sure the maximum number of people are receiving your critical information, check out our Best Practices for Digital Outreach.
*Source: MPR News