• Governer Partner :City of Norfolk
  • Department :The Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response
  • Category :Digitization, Public Safety, Resident Engagement, Resiliency

Project Summary

Improved emergency shelter reservation management system

Challenge Details

How might we improve emergency shelter pre-registration and processing so we are more successful based on increased health and safety of our citizens in need of emergency shelter, increased registration volume, decreased processing times, and overall improved resident preparedness before, during, and after an emergency event?

A quicker and more efficient means to register emergency shelter attendees.

Susceptible to the recurring threat of tropical storms, the City is expected to open emergency shelters for those residents exposed to surge flooding. Through decades of the same processes and the same challenges, it is time to re-evaluate how shelter operations – from registration to release – can be improved.
Looking at the private sector who also provides lodging and accommodations, albeit not in emergency situations and certainly more luxurious than an emergency shelter would ever offer, the process at its most basic level is rather similar. One strategy our department hopes to research is pre-arrival check-in / registration. In other words, completing a private and secure online form with the same questions asked at the shelter registration desk, this could be completed ahead of time. When the individual who completes the form presents himself or herself (and/or their family) at the shelter, wristbands can be ready and waiting for them (note: this system would thus need to communicate with our current EWA Phoenix system). This would cut down the number of individuals in line and the time associated with processing each one on site. Incidentally, this could be another way in which to convey shelter locations, accommodations, expectations and instructions as well as receive any special accommodations needs.

What is your department responsible for in relation to this challenge?
The Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response, in direct partnership with all other City departments, is responsible for the overall Emergency Operations and Resilience Framework. The Mass Care and Sheltering Annex of this Framework is a shared responsibility with the primary agency being Human Services.
What is the current state of your process?

A full-scale sheltering exercise was just conducted in July 2018. Based on that event and the subsequent After Action Report, improvements are currently underway. Incidentally, this particular strategy related to pre-registration was not identified until an even more recent Emergency Management Strategic Committee meeting by Councilwoman McClellan.

What pain points do your staff and/or residents experience?

Several shelter openings in the past, and planning assumptions for larger-scale storms, show many individuals and families converging onto an emergency shelter site almost simultaneously which can easily overwhelm shelter staff – a hectic environment for both staff and guests.

Ease of shelter registration. Less wait time. Less of an impact on staff. Daring to not just be good enough, but embracing a changing mindset and leveraging technology to be great!