Why communication is key to coronavirus response

25th March 2020 Jonathan Andrews

The southern California city of Carlsbad has launched an online map to enable residents under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic to easily find restaurants and cafes that either offer deliveries or kerbside take away services.

The map is not only helping residents but also local businesses to continue to operate during the statewide stay-at-home order in California.

“We immediately started engaging with our small- and medium-sized businesses to figure out what we could do to help them and what services they need,” David Graham, Chief Innovation Officer, Carlsbad, told Cities Today. “In a lot of ways, communication has been key for our companies.”

The city has since been issuing joint communications with the Chamber of Commerce and the Village Association to help summarise and connect companies with resources like small business loans, disaster recovery, and unemployment and disability payments for workers.

Graham said that since launching, the map has had a “flood of requests” from businesses to be included and has coincided with the creation of other GIS mapping on a range of issues to help residents and businesses.

This includes working with 911 dispatch information to have local data on people who have symptoms, to help the city recognise and respond to clusters.

“We’re getting good information from the County of San Diego but there’s even more localised data sets that we can use to help our first responders and our disaster preparedness and management, to understand what is happening in this situation,” said Graham.

The city is no stranger to disaster response, having experienced wildfires and a Hepatitis A outbreak in the last decade. Although far different from the coronavirus pandemic, Graham said that this has helped put in place a robust Emergency Operations Centre–where Graham now splits his time working between City Hall and home.

With an “excellent” emergency preparedness director, the city has been tracking and preparing for the virus since January.

“There are a lot of lessons you can apply from having gone through these sorts of situations before,” added Graham. “The city has fairly recently updated its continuity of operations plan. From a strategic standpoint, the city is well prepared to deal with situations like this.”

The pandemic has forced the city to ramp up its timeframe for digital transformation efforts, especially those relating to public facing services and updating its telecommuting policy, including expanding the use of digital tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

“The lessons that are going to come out of coronavirus [show] what is possible, including accelerated culture change, because we’re in a crisis,” he said. “It will have a profound impact on cities and their digital transformation efforts.”

*If you are a CIO or mobility head of a city and would like to contribute and share your experiences with your peers regarding the coronavirus pandemic, please email: editorial@nullcities-today.com to speak with one of the Cities Today team

Login or Register

Like what you are reading? Register now to get FREE access to premium content and to receive our newsletter.

Login Register