Thursday, June 19, 2014

Remembering the 2013 June flood; response, recovery and the road ahead - Customer Service & Communications

Sharing critical information during the 2013 flood emergency response was The City’s top priority. As Mayor Nenshi put it, “when The City knew, citizens knew”.

“We faced major communication challenges like loss and reduction in telephone service that impacted 311 and an overloaded web server which impacted - two of our main channels to communicate with Calgarians” said Jacob George, Acting Director of Customer Service & Communications at The City of Calgary during the flood.

Relying on traditional communication methods was difficult as 80,000 citizens had been displaced from their homes and had limited access to their usual means of getting City information (TV, computers, etc). “The City had to take a different approach to all communications so that City messaging would be received by those impacted by the flood. Our City communicators adapted and responded with innovative and creative solutions” said George.

In the days following evacuations, City communicators worked closely with the communications teams from partner agencies in responding the flood like Calgary Police, Calgary Zoo and Enmax to keep Calgarians well-informed, as situations emerged. “I was very impressed with the personal commitment that our communicators displayed. We had some staff who were evacuated from their own homes, but insisted on continuing to work. They made the citizens’ needs their number one priority.” 

The City harnessed the power of social media to help community volunteers to self-organize and help those in need of assistance with cleaning and rebuilding.

The Calgary communications team was very active on social media:

• 1,200 tweets on Twitter
• 250 Facebook updates
• Over 275 YouTube videos with over 900,000 minutes viewed
• 280 City Flickr posts
• Hosted 1.1 million visits to the City of Calgary Blog
• Over 150 media advisories published with regular media briefings

“Since the flood of 2013, several Canadian municipalities and other levels of government have reached out to us for best practices,” said George. The City of Calgary’s communication response to the flood has been the subject of numerous case studies from all across the globe, allowing others to learn from Calgary’s experience.

“One of our managers put up a sign at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) while we were working from there - think like a flood victim. That was our motto all through the two weeks we were at the EOC and continues to be the focus of our communications since the flood” said George.

Visit for 2013 flood facts, photos, infographics and more.

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