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Behind The Scenes At Broward County's Emergency Operations Center During A Hurricane

Broward County Emergency Operations
Caitie Switalski
Mike Jorgensen, AV Program Manager for Broward County, looks over equipment for news conferences in the county's emergency media center with his team member, Emmanuel Espinal, Senior Communications Systems Engineer.

After Hurricane Irma, Broward County has spent about $600,000 of a total of $750,000 allocated to upgrade its emergency operations center in Plantation. For Hurricane Dorian, the county used a lot of different ways to let people know what was going on: video news conferences, email blasts and social media. 

WLRN spoke with Broward’s Audio-Visual Program Manager, Mike Jorgensen, about how hurricane updates from the county get to your screens during a storm. 


WLRN: How do you see that people are engaging with Broward County public information during a hurricane?

JORGENSEN: As we know, not everyone gets that information the same way anymore. You know, when I was younger: it was television [and] radio, right? That's how everyone got it.

Now, everyone has a phone, and so really getting information out to all the social media accounts is really important. Like my kids, they don't watch TV. They watch YouTube. So in order for us to reach my children we have to be on YouTube. So we have to be able to reach all those audiences. 

Now, we have multiple platforms to do that. We have our county website. Then, we have our Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. We have to hit them all. Now, if there's a new social media platform out there that we don't know about, we'd sure love to hear about it so, maybe, we could you know try to reach out there.

Two years ago during Irma was really the first time that we decided to push out all of our social media accounts and we had 661,000 views just through our social media accounts. Whereas before, we didn't have those views.   

What did you do differently for Hurricane Dorian than you did, even for Hurricane Irma? 

Before, if you notice all the other press conferences, the sign language interpreter is usually standing right next to the podium, or behind the speaker.


Broward County
Credit Courtesy Broward County / WLRN
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen, left, delivered a news conference for the public during preparations for Hurricane Dorian. On the right, the county tested giving the sign-language interpreter equal screen space.

I've seen some press conferences where, it was like almost finding Waldo, because you were trying to find the sign language interpreter and if you're hard of hearing or deaf, you know, you need to be able to see them. We thought we could do better. 

What we decided to do is do a side-by-side, so really giving the sign language interpreter their own prominent place on the screen so they could be more easily seen. That is new.  

Read More: How Well Did South Florida Respond To Hurricane Dorian?

When you think about it, you're providing a lifeline that connects people to the message that they need to hear about their public safety. How does that role feel to you?

Failure is not an option. We have to always be ready. Right?

We always have to be ready, because you know remember, that emergency operation center just isn't for storm related activities. For example, you know, the shooting at the airport the shooting at Stoneman Douglas ... this place is for all emergencies. So we have to be ready at all times. We have to just turn it on and be ready.

There's there's a lot of pressure to get the information out right. And a lot of times we don't have a lot of information. Our job is to make sure it's successful and they get the message out.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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