City of Zephyrhills smart communication keeping citizens safe and informed during Hurricane Ian using TextMyGov

Keeping Citizens Safe & Informed During Hurricane Ian | TextMyGov

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City of Zephyrhills Smart Communication

On September 23, 2022, Hurricane Ian hit Florida causing more than $100 billion in damages to the state and causing them to declare a state of emergency. With flooding, debris, and fallen trees the City of Zephyrhills  knew they had to act fast. They needed to provide support to citizens quickly and let them know effectively when and where to evacuate, where to find shelter, as well as where to pick up sandbags. They turned to TextMyGov, a local government texting service that allows citizens to find information with simple keywords and receive text alerts with hurricane updates and important information directly from the city.

The city’s decision to utilize TextMyGov proved to be a reliable means of communication. According to The Pew Research Center, 97% of Americans own a smartphone. Taking that into consideration with how cell phone towers are built to withstand powerful hurricane winds, it’s clear that texting the city was a smart strategy in place to keep citizens safe and informed.

Not only did this help the citizens of Zephyrhills get information quickly and accurately, but also reduced the number of phone calls to the city, and was able to help citizens 24 hours a day. After the hurricane, the city was able to use TextMyGov to let citizens report fallen trees and inform them about garbage pickup schedules. This helped dramatically with the cleanup process.

The City of Zephyrhills used 14% of its total texting usage with TextMyGov during Hurricane Ian. They sent out a total of 70,252 Texts to their citizens during that timeframe. We asked them if TextMyGov made managing citizens' needs during the hurricane easier, and the Public Information Officer (PIO), Kevin Weiss responded.

"TextMyGov was very useful in managing citizen needs, as we were able to push out information about local hurricane shelters and sandbag locations. We were also able to push out information regarding post-storm debris and garbage pickup schedules/directions throughout the city limits."

During this time, they made sure to advertise this way of communication to their citizens. The City Manager, Billy Poe, mentioned the following in the city's Local State of Emergency announcement.

“Citizens can also receive text messages from the city, simply texting the word ZEPHYRHILLS to the five-digit number, 91896.”

When citizens saw that message, many signed up immediately and were informed of what the status was in Zephyrhills during the disaster. Now that this event is over, the service is still used every day concerning all types of questions, and to help their citizens find answers to their questions and to be informed on things happening in their city.

We are proud that TextMyGov was able to help the City of Zephyrhills by assisting its citizens in a time of crisis. They were prepared to use TextMyGov for emergencies and disasters, which helped their community begin to rebuild and communicate quickly. For PIO (Public Information Officers) this is a fantastic way to help prepare your citizens for natural disasters.

TextMyGov can be used in various ways to help cities and counties prepare for natural disasters. Another way to do this is by integrating TextMyGov into iWorQ’s Public Works software applications, to make it easy for citizens to report damage and allow staff to organize their work orders. Our PublicWorks1 team can also help by collecting your street and asset data through street-level imagery that can be tracked, mapped, and reported on in iWorQ. This process collects data on city assets like road signs, streetlights, fire hydrants, and more. So, when disaster does hit, it is easier to rebuild the city and make it easier to qualify for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds.

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