Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie is emphasizing his agency’s increased use of technology to better manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming hurricane season, along with improving overall agency operations and response, at the 2021 National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans.
“We have never had the opportunity to engage technology like we had during COVID-19. It was really an evolution in emergency management,” Guthrie said this week. “If used strategically, technology can help us improve our disaster responses, connect us with our residents and streamline internal processes.”
Guthrie walked through several examples of technology implementations that helped emergency managers across the state manage a year-plus-long pandemic and multiple hurricanes on the horizon.
He highlighted specific projects that:
— Establish a comprehensive shelter management platform.
— Collect information directly from constituents for disaster documentation.
— Track thousands of volunteers across the state during the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
— Keep accurate, real-time data from state-supported vaccination sites.
The shelter management platform, Safer FL, provided an app for Florida residents to be connected to hotel rooms in the event of an evacuation. Traditionally, community shelters are used, but during the pandemic, the Safer FL platform offered a quick, easy way to keep residents safe from COVID-19 and simultaneously shelter them from a hurricane.
“Safer FL really revolutionized the way we approached general sheltering during hurricane season,” Guthrie said. “With this software, we were able to anticipate the number of residents who would require sheltering during a storm, accurately track the number of individuals physically in shelters during storms and streamline the check-in process at shelters.”
Safer FL, built on the Salesforce platform, was a partnership with Coastal Cloud, a Florida-based Salesforce partner with extensive public sector experience.
“Our innovative collaboration with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to build Safer FL meant that Florida residents could be assured safe shelter during an emergency, in the middle of the pandemic,” said Sara Hale, Coastal Cloud founder and managing partner. “There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our fellow residents, and we are proud to partner with DEM to continue providing safe shelter for any type of emergency moving forward.”
The second project Guthrie touted is the Salesforce Social Studio platform, also implemented by Coastal Cloud, which allows DEM to monitor social media activity in real-time and collect accurate and timely information from residents about their safety, damage from an event and more.
“Through this platform, we’re now able to engage with residents and have them submit their damage documentation directly through their social media accounts,” he said. “We will be working with our vendor Coastal Cloud and the Salesforce platform to turn this into a real damage assessment platform. We are really excited about what the capabilities will be with this technology.”
Guthrie also highlighted DEM’s partnership with Merit, an emergency preparedness technology company that enables verified identity for workers and volunteers to support the mission areas and core capabilities for state and national disasters. Merit’s verification system allowed DEM to verify credentials for more than 3,000 volunteers and more than 1 million man-hours of emergency response deployment across 103 sites.
DEM was recently recognized for this tech project by being awarded the State IT Innovation of the Year award by the StateScoop 50 Awards.
Finally, Guthrie spoke about the way technology helped run COVID-19 testing and vaccinations sites with CDR Health, a subsidiary of disaster recovery company CDR Maguire. “The Division used CDR’s platform to track data, and multiple users were able to access this data throughout the day. We were able to submit real-time data to FEMA, but we were also able to identify which vaccination locations were performing best, and provide more vaccine distribution in real-time,” he said.
In addition to his focus on technology, Guthrie also spoke about the critical importance of streamlining emergency management processes and also supporting professional development in the emergency management field.
The National Hurricane Conference runs through Friday.