The City of Palm Coast is participating in a new University of Missouri-Columbia research study regarding emergency tornado notification through the CodeRED system available to city and county residents. (Click here to participate.)
The survey will help researchers learn how residents and businesses inside the city were notified of the tornado threat and what they did with the information, in an effort to understand how people receive emergency information, how they react to it, and what may be done to improve the system.
On Dec. 14, an EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 110 mph touched down and swathed its way through Palm Coast’s B, C and F sections. Many residents learned of the oncoming tornado through the CodeRED emergency notification system, which sends alerts about emergencies through participants’ cell phones or computers, by email or by phone. Many residents, however, did not get the alert, and some residents in the B Section reported that the system there had been spotty.
CodeRED is administered by Ormond Beach-based Emergency Communications Network, one of whose employees, Stephanie Meyers, is conducting the survey and the research project about the system. Meyers is a graduate student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism–one of the leading journalism schools in the nation–and devised the research project as part of her Master’s thesis, which she is completing and defending by May. Meyers is the marketing manager for ECN.
“I’ve been at Emergency Communications Network two years this month,” Meyers said in an interview this afternoon, “and I wanted to combine my research in school with something I was doing professionally.” Meyers looked for a project that had not been done before, at least not with this precision. “This came to be a research area that nobody else had explored yet.”
The online survey asks some two dozen questions, plus a few more optional ones. It takes about 5 minutes to complete. It is straight-forward, starting by asking participants if they were in Palm Coast on Dec. 14, when the tornado struck, if they knew there was a possibility of a tornado that day, where they were when they heard of it (thousands of Palm Coast residents were at the city’s annual Starlight parade, which had to be cut short as police and firefighters sent people home once they were alerted to the tornado warning).
The survey asks participants what sort of communications devices they own and on which one they might have heard of the warning, then what measures they took once they did. The survey, which is anonymous, also asks demographic questions such as the age, income and education of participants. “Your responses will be shared with the City of Palm Coast for their consideration of emergency tornado notification preparedness in your community,” the survey notes.
The survey will be open Monday, Feb. 3, through Monday, Feb. 17. Meyers is asking all adults age 18 or older who live or were in Palm Coast in December 2013 to participate in the survey – whether they lived in the neighborhoods affected by the tornado or not.
The survey may be completed online by clicking here.
Those who would prefer to complete the survey by telephone may call toll-free at 800/453-8436.
The study will also survey residents and businesses in Douglas County, Ill., which was struck by an EF-3 tornado on Nov. 17, 2013, and killed seven people. The tornado packed winds of up to 140 mph and ripped through a 15-mile path. The study will compare emergency notification technology and how it was received by the public for weather warning notification. Meyers chose the two areas because of their differences in landscape and population, which will allow the study to yield greater perspective in the way people in different areas and different backgrounds respond to an emergency.
Meyers is looking for a combined 1,000 valid responses from Palm Coast and Douglas County.
“We are very excited that our City was selected to participate in this survey, and we look forward to partnering with the University of Missouri-Columbia for this research initiative,” Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle said. Beadle lead the emergency response to the Dec. 14 tornado, and summed up the event before the Palm Coast City Council late last month. “We encourage all of our residents who are over 18 to make sure they participate. The findings of this research will help us understand any communication limitations that exist within our community and ways we can improve early warning communication to our citizens to protect life and property.”
Palm Coast currently uses the CodeRED emergency notification system to provide automated warnings of impending severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, as well as city or neighborhood emergency alerts. To register for future notifications, click here.
Meyers began her career as an assignment editor and Web producer for CBS and Fox affiliate television news stations in Jacksonville, then worked as a Web producer and traffic reporter for WOFL-TV in Orlando before joining the marketing and public relations team at Florida Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Flagler College in 2006, graduating magna cum laude. She enrolled in the Missouri journalism school’s online Master’s program in 2010, taking one course at a time while working her way through the program.
“Weather fascinates me,” Meyers says, “tornadoes obviously are very dangerous, and the more strategic warning we can provide, the better.”