A significant number of communities across the country are impacted by winter weather, and the threat of dangerous roads. Whether you are a typically warm and dry community, for whom a few inches of snow is crippling, or a northeast town for whom winter weather road conditions require multiple news updates per day, read these six best practices for keeping your citizens informed this winter.
Use Social Media to Update Citizens on Road Crew Progress
Keep citizens indoors until their streets are cleared of snow and ice by municipal road crews. The best way to mitigate unnecessary travel is to keep citizens informed as to when road crews will be servicing their neighborhoods. Use social media, ideal for short, regular news updates, to keep citizens informed on the progress of your plows and salt trucks. The community of Coon Rapids, Minnesota posts road crew updates to its Twitter page, and links to its municipal website where interested readers can access more information.
Allow Citizens to Sign-up for Alerts
Depending on where they live and work, some citizens may need more frequent updates than others, and they may benefit from receiving them via multiple channels. Utilizing a subscription-based government emergency notification system will allow your citizens to opt-in to the types of notifications they want to receive (e.g., weather news, emergency alerts), and their preferred communication channels (e.g., text message/SMS, phone call, email).
Post Updates to Your Homepage
The homepage of your civic website likely receives a high volume of traffic as a starting place for citizens looking for local news, information, and updates. When you have news and updates regarding potentially disruptive weather impacting your community, place those updates in a designated, noticeable spot right on your homepage to maximize the reach of your message. The community of Beaverton, Oregon has a link on its local government website homepage to “Winter Road Conditions,” and, when necessary, adds an “Inclement Weather Update” notification, as seen below.
Share Updates Early and Often
Weather patterns can change quickly, and escalate fast. Your citizens need routine updates notifying them when conditions change, especially if road conditions are on a trajectory to go from slippery to severe. Use every channel available to share such updates as: road closures, slow traffic due to icy roads, snow plow delays, and hazardous conditions. A government emergency notification system can help you send multi-channel communications using a single platform to speed the execution of each update.
Words are meaningful, but images are impactful. Citizens used to winter weather disruptions may disregard a winter weather advisory text communication as just another routine update, but seeing a photo of the major highway they travel to get home buried under snow, with cars crawling in a single lane, will get their attention, enabling them to make alternate, safer travel plans.
Video has the power to be even more engaging than photos. If possible, keep citizens informed with as-its-happening conditions utilizing local video sources. For example, the Town of Banff in Canada sends weather updates to citizens via social media, and includes a link to its civic website’s available traffic cameras to prepare citizens for dangerous road conditions.
For more tips and best practices for keeping citizens informed during the winter months and always, sign-up to receive the CivicPulse monthly newsletter from the citizen engagement and safety communication experts at CivicPlus.