Site gets residents set for storms

Miami-Dade County's new emergency management Web site is designed to provide information residents need to prepare for hurricanes

With hurricane season here, Miami-Dade County's new emergency management Web site is designed to provide information residents need to prepare for the storms, as well as flood, drought and other South Florida weather hazards.

The county's Office of Emergency Management had an emergency site before, according to director Chuck Lanza, but it was designed in-house using off-the-shelf software, and was not "anyone-friendly." The new professionally designed site (www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/oem) has a much cleaner look and provides much clearer and more precise information, he said.

A notable feature is three large buttons marked Ready, Set and Safety. People can click Ready, for example, when informed that a hurricane is approaching. A checklist pops up on the screen, telling people what materials and other things they need on hand to cope with the storm.

Users would click the Set button when the storm is close. That section provides information such as available shelters, and what to do to adequately shutter windows and doors. When it seems inevitable that the storm will strike, clicking the Safety button provides information on how to get to the shelters.

"In the past, we found we were good with our responses to peoples' questions, but we were not good at telling people when to put their shutters up and do others things," Lanza said. "This new Web site provides a formal timeframe for when people should do what they need to do."

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

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