Orange Beach Fire Department

Mutual Aid at the Height of Hurricane Season

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Jeff Smith

Deputy Chief

Location

Orange Beach, AL

Response Area Population

10,000

Personnel

50 Professional Firefighters

Q&A

Hurricane Preparation

First Due

How do you prepare for a hurricane using First Due? Did you do anything special in preparation for the storm or was the work you were already doing sufficient for response?

Jeff Smith

A lot of the work that we already had done in First Due proved useful in preparation - namely some key pre-incident plans and data already associated with low-lying addresses that we were already in the habit of using. When we first started to see Orange Beach in the cone, we looked into additional data sources that may help us gain a better operating picture for this specific scenario. 

What we found was incredibly useful as First Due enabled us to access buoy data from offshore to monitor wind speeds and wave height, so we could better estimate the time frame of major winds/storm surge arriving in Orange Beach.

Using First Due for Quickly Changing Conditions

First Due

What necessary steps did you take in First Due when the hurricane situation shifted from no big deal to an all hands on deck response?

Jeff Smith

With the way were already using data in the First Due platform, there were no big changes that needed to be made even for a situation like a major storm. However, when we developed strategies to incorporate data from outside sources to understand how our preparations would hold up against projected storm-tracks, we needed to bring in platform expertise to make these things a reality.

All it took was one phone call to the First Due Client Success team to go over our goals and how we needed to account for current weather data and storm surge. Within the hour, our layers for the buoy data were added and we were able to get back to storm preparation.

With the way were already using data in the First Due platform, there were no big changes that needed to be made even for a situation like a major storm.

With the way were already using data in the First Due platform, there were no big changes that needed to be made even for a situation like a major storm.

Easily Sharing Information for Mutual Aid Partners

First Due

How were you able to use First Due to enable partner agencies from your area to access information? Which agencies joined in and how easy was the process?

Jeff Smith

When a task force arrived days after the storm, adding their personnel was as easy as obtaining their name and email address - that's all it took to make sure the right people had an account with the right access and permissions. People who came in to assist and who were less familiar with Orange Beach instantly had what we needed them to have - our incident alerts, our mapping data, and our pre-incident plans.

Using First Due During an Active Hurricane

First Due

How did you and your partner agencies utilize First Due during the hurricane?

Jeff Smith

First and foremost, we had to get on the same playbook and act quickly to provide our task force partners with our incident alerting, mapping data, and all of our pre-incident plans including details on our residential structures.  We took it a big step further by just as quickly enabling our crews to track outside task force apparatus location just as we do ours, so we could make sure the closest unit to any emergency was the one responding.

Hurricane Season Before First Due

First Due

How did the way you used First Due during the storm compare with previous hurricanes before you had the platform?

Jeff Smith

Previously, we logged in and just used an internet browser to obtain buoy data for timeline predictions. Now, critical storm data is firmly embedded in our operating workflows. Additionally, during storms in years past we had to provide partner agencies with map books for directions which caused a significant delay in their response due to looking up addresses in an unfamiliar response area. First Due has ensured during a major emergency, our partners can see what we see and operate like we operate.

Now, critical storm data is firmly embedded in our operating workflows.

Now, critical storm data is firmly embedded in our operating workflows.