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How Alachua County, FL is using to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis

Alachua County's emergency management

Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) department owns emergency management and provides emergency medical services to the 256,380 citizens and visitors of Alachua County in Florida, which includes the City of Gainesville.

Hal Grieb is the Director of Emergency Management who, together with the County Manager, handles any hazards or incidents in their jurisdiction that are declared a disaster.

Currently, Hal’s team is in charge of the County’s emergency response to the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic crisis. Fortunately, the team adopted prior to the crisis and have been using the platform for their emergency management needs. And it’s made all the difference.

The challenge

The team’s previous emergency management software was limiting

The emergency management teams work in a fast-paced and dynamic environment on the front lines of disaster response. Once a disaster strikes, there is no room for mistakes. If teams are not in constant sync and alignment, the results can be catastrophic.

Before Hal joined as the Director of Emergency Management, the teams were using software especially designed for emergency management to coordinate their activities. The existing system was overly complicated and required a lot of manual work even to complete the simplest tasks – taking precious time away from doing their actual job.
“It was hard for me to ask my team, in a heightened level of anxiety and adrenaline, to come in cold to a system that they may have used once in a training environment for a real-life incident or hazard.”

Hal understood the limitations of typical emergency management software. Because they are not used regularly for day-to-day work, they become antiquated, requiring significant maintenance, lengthy waits for customer service and technical expertise on the backend.


Hal wanted to find a flexible platform that would work equally well for disaster management as it would for ongoing daily work routines. Having one platform that would work for both purposes would make things easier on the team.

Hal spoke to Chris Neilsen, the County’s Web Services Supervisor, and discovered that a lot of the other departments were already using for their day-to-day work. Chris recommended he try for his team and see if it would fit the bill Hal was after in an emergency management platform.

Hal introduced to his team who quickly adopted to run all their core workflows and processes.

“More and more members of the team started to use the platform to collaborate, and manage and track their work,” says Hal.
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The fast and easy adoption of by the entire team for day-to-day routines was encouraging, but Hal needed to make sure it was flexible and powerful enough for their emergency management needs as well.

To further test the platform, Hal and his team created a virtual Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on An EOC is a specially designated centralized facility where officials meet face-to-face to coordinate a jurisdiction’s overall disaster response and recovery efforts in support of field operations.

And they conducted an internal virtual drill on the platform that lasted a few weeks before COVID-19 was officially declared a disaster to see how it would go – and it ran like clockwork.

The all-in-one solution

Intuitive and easy-to-use on the go for those on the ground

Most emergency management systems today require you to log in before you could do anything, which makes it difficult for teams on the ground to send information on the go quickly.

“Being able to go into a secure section of the County website and fill in a form that directly connects to boards in the platform managed by the teams in the office is incredibly powerful. It makes it simple for the teams on the ground to log their hours, send resource requests, and so on – and that was key for me,” says Hal.
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Centralized data and information for quick and easy access

Hal’s team set up a Workspace for their virtual EOC. Teams of every function are now utilizing Workspaces to keep all their work organized in one central place.

At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, they created folders within the virtual EOC for everything related to managing and tracking the impact of the outbreak, including their Activity Log, File Library, Resource Requests, Significant Updates, and more.
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Foresight to stay grounded and know what’s coming next

Hal created an Operational Rhythm (based on the military term Battle Rhythm) workflow app and added a Calendar View by “day” to see what’s upcoming.

Too often, it’s hard to keep track of and maximize your time when there’s a lot going on, especially under a crisis like we are now experiencing with the COVID-19 outbreak Hal also created a dashboard to make it even easier for others to see the same information.
Operational Calendar
“When you’re in a heightened state of alert and experiencing adrenaline rushes in a crisis like this one, your cognitive abilities are diminished. Having a dashboard with a countdown widget really helps you stay grounded and focused and know what’s coming next,” says Hal. “We can easily see how many hours, minutes, and seconds are left to the next meeting so we can make the most use of our time in between.”

“If executives want to know how many resource requests we have and what the priority of those requests are, they can go to the dashboards and see everything at glance.”

Hal Grieb
Director of Emergency Management, Alachua County

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