February 14, 2023 - Emergency preparedness coordination between groups

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Back to Federal Provincial Territorial COVID-19 web management working group

Agenda

Emergency preparedness coordination between groups

  • Challenges
  • Mitigation strategies
  • What didn’t work, why?
  • What did you try and give up on?
  • What would you do differently?

Sharing best practices

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Drive all traffic to one page on the website, whether it’s freezing rain, hurricanes, etc. All social media and radio etc. leads to this one storm response page. The page often has a lot of links but it’s always a consistent destination for emergency response items. The communications teams in the other departments update their content and then send in the links through the central PEI communications team to update that core page and push out information on social media.

Alberta

One central page for every major provincial emergency (alberta.ca/emergency). Traffic to that page spikes even when it's a lesser scale emergency so people have learned to go there for information. The central web team works with the Emergency Response Team and goes down to the provincial response office to be there in real time to push out emergency information on the web and social media channels.

If there is no power

PEI: During Hurricane Fiona PEI had someone go to an Emergency Management Office (EMO) where they have lots of backup power. Also had a web team member with a generator and internet so they could still do web updates. People without power were still able to get information during Hurricane Fiona and its aftermath through the radio. EMO did a really good job of advising people in advance that they would need to plan for a 48-hour power outage (didn’t anticipate the 2 weeks to a month that some were without power). People had their batteries and radio charged beforehand. Didn’t know where people would be looking for information so pushed out information on all channels but relied heavily on radio.

British Columbia

Use scripting for Service BC Centres in addition to web content and emergency alerts. These are centres where people can come in and get information directly. This gives them the same information as they would get on social media or the web if something happens to the power or internet. Emergency Information:

Yukon

Use the HAM radio network. Emergency Management Offices personnel also go door-to-door. Some communities are quite remote so EMO staff are there to inform people.

Nova Scotia

Delegates from each pocket of each agency (social media/web/communications) are all tagged to go to EMOs. Everyone is in a boardroom together doing communications together. We know who the contacts are for each organization and we can always tag off. There is someone from the web team there 24 hours a day. The plan for this came about after a summer with wildfires, floods, and droughts which had us make a plan to address things in a less chaotic way and it worked very well.

Public Safety

Public Safety has the government operations centre that manages everything that happens in Canada and around the world for disasters/ emergencies. We have embedded communications staff there that flag on a daily basis everything that is happening across the country.

Once an emergency exceeds the ability for provinces to manage it, there is a request for federal assistance. So that brings in a federal emergency response. Public Safety convenes coordination calls between affected departments to make sure we are all on the same page and that communications efforts are coordinated. Once an event requires federal assistance we create a federal landing page that puts together all the information that everyone would want to know (usually wildfires, hurricanes, flooding). It’s a one stop shop for all the federal information about what we are doing and we try to include links to all the provincial information about that topic (ie. for BC we would link to their emergency page about flooding).

Web visitors get the federal and local information in one spot. Our stats are generally pretty good on this. We often get a lot of hits from people coming to our federal landing page and then going to the provincial sites. Hurricanes are a little different. We put up information for specific storms, not hurricane season in general. Hurricane Fiona was the first time we used the feedback widget on our site and we got to see that most visitors were actually looking for local information and not the federal response. So we know location-specific information is very important. There’s always some evergreen content but then there’s also event-specific information and local-specific information. Content is taken down 3-6 months after the event.

Privy Council Office

Coordinate digital content for all of the Government of Canada.

Interested in knowing:

  • How do you share information within provinces and the GC?
  • Are you being made aware of what’s out there already?
  • What’s working in terms of coordination and sharing?
  • Do you think this group can be leveraged for information sharing?
  • When things move quickly what are your best practices?
  • Do you have a way to get things up quickly before everything is fully approved?
  • Do you have a recurring page where everyone goes to so people know to go there to find that information?

Public Safety

Find what pages to link to with a Google search if necessary, but sometimes pulled into the provincial level planning meetings. Was very effective to regularly be on the Government of BC COVID calls and flooding calls. A lot of provinces seem to have a general emergency page so we have a list of pages we usually link to. But we find it useful to be invited to provincial planning meetings to make sure we are pointing to all the right content.

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

If the website is down there’s a general message that points people to social media because even when the website goes down the social media stays online. Content that can be repurposed is kept after the emergency. For example, during Hurricane Fiona, we produced information about when to throw food out of your fridge/freezer if the power has been down. Now the branding is being removed so the content can be reused. It’s information that is useful for other emergencies as well so we don’t want to have to reproduce it. Some pages (ie. specific emergency measures) come and go but some content stays on our storm watch page as evergreen content and we clean it up between emergencies.

Using alerts

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Alerts can be published on just the homepage or every page of the website based on how the alert is set up Site-wide alerts email everyone that has subscribed to the PEI alerts list. If it is something important like Hurricane Fiona, the alert goes on every page. (BC can also do page specific or whole site alerts).

Alberta

Use alerts on the web site, but they aren’t attached to any subscription/ messaging system. Instead there’s an email campaign that gets set up in advance to send emails to interested people. Use social media to promote one news release where new information keeps getting added to the top and bumping the older information down. That way, no matter when someone found that link on social media they were always getting the most up-to-date information.

Active emergency updates | Alberta.ca is the page used for every provincial emergency. Traffic to that page spikes even when it's a lesser scale emergency so people have learned to go there for information. We use:

  • Blue for information alerts
  • Yellow for important alerts
  • Red for critical alerts

Alberta.ca has a sitewide information alert up right now for affordability payments.

Digital Transformation Office

The Government of Canada usually releases a new news release for new information but will sometimes add an alert to the top of the news release to push people to newer content if there’s a lot of traffic going to a news release that provides information that’s no longer accurate.

Yukon

Moving to Drupal 10, currently on Drupal 7. Site-wide alert doesn’t seem to be very effective for directing people to the emergency page. Research found that most people ignore the alerts. 75% to 80% of users are getting to the Yukon website from Google.

  • BC has multiple websites/applications and uses a coordinated communications plan to set up banners and define where the alerts should point. A sitewide alert banner points to the relevant page.
  • PEI alert link drives people directly to where they need to go

Still use the alert at the top of the homepage. Even if the general audience may ignore it due to alert fatigue (or going directly to the page), concerned individuals may appreciate seeing it.

Challenges or things people wished worked better

Parks Canada

Most people are going to Parks pages from search so the more you can work on SEO the better.

Public Safety

There is a national alert system so if it really is urgent people get that on their phones. During an emergency Google (ie. tornado) serves up pre-populated information about being prepared for emergencies plus specific information about that specific event. Because of this, Public Safety has invested a lot of time and money to make sure that Google indexes us properly, so that during an emergency we don’t really have to do a lot with Google. We make sure our data is machine-readable. You should look at your search results after an event to understand how users are finding and interacting with your content. May 7 -13 is Emergency Preparedness Week. It has been happening every year for 25 years. The focus is teaching people how to get prepared for various emergencies. All content points to getprepared.gc.ca.

If anyone have plans for what they are doing for their EPW weeks, please reach out:

  • kimberly.patriquin@ps-sp.gc.ca

Yukon

Exploring adding a subscribe option on certain webpages. The Alaska Department of Health has this setup for COVID-19 content.

Next meeting

Next meeting happens on March 14 and it is on web governance models.