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  • Success Story
  • North Port, Florida

North Port Supports Community Throughout Historic Storm


With a massive hurricane headed their way, the Communications Division of North Port provided citizens with up-to-the-minute emergency information to help them find shelter and then seek assistance once the storm was over. 

“We were able to reach people when they needed information the most.”
Madison Heid, North Port Deputy Communications Manager


  • 180,000 visitors to the emergency site before, during, and after storm
  • 2.5 million social media impressions recorded
  • Maintained communications with public without power or internet
  • Emergency response spurred additional projects
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A Category 5 Hurricane Moves Closer

On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian landed on Florida’s western coast just south of Tampa. In an area no stranger to hurricanes, Ian stood out. It was a Category 5 storm that later became the deadliest storm to hit Florida in 87 years.

North Port, a city in southern Sarasota County, found itself directly in Ian’s path. As the hurricane moved closer, the North Port communications team needed to act quickly to provide more than 70,000 residents with vital information about the storm, evacuation plans, local shelters, and more to help them make life-saving decisions.


Utilize Multiple Communications Tools to Keep Vital Information Flowing 

As a long-time Granicus customer, North Port leveraged govAccess to communicate with residents. The communications team quickly transformed its homepage to highlight emergency information and resources.

Then the storm hit, and the communications team had to pivot again.

“Our command center lost power,” said Madison Heid, North Port deputy communications manager. “In an instant, we had no way to update our site.”

The North Port team reached out to their partners at Sarasota County Government. The communications team there was given access to the Granicus platform, updated the North Port website, and distributed community messages. This continued for more than two days until power was restored.

As cellular services and the internet gradually came back online, the team adjusted how it made posts on social media channels, as including photos or videos with posts made them less accessible to the primary public. The team switched to text-only ‘low-fidelity’ posts on several channels so residents could still receive critical messages.


A Community Stays Connected During Disaster

Despite the immense challenges the communications team faced, it could keep lines of communication open with the public when needed most.

From September 25—three days before Hurricane Ian struck—to October 25, the city’s alert web page received more than 180,000 visits. There were also 170 listens to the city’s information podcast through Spreaker.

The communications team was incredibly active during that time:

  • Producing 14 press releases, 10 media releases and facilitating media engagements with more than 75 news outlets.
  • Posting more than 140 tweets, 200 Facebook posts, and 80 Instagram posts, generating more than 2.5 million impressions and nearly 400,000 engagements.
  • Providing immediate and accurate information to residents by fielding at least 2,000 calls through the emergency call center. The Call Center handled more than 5,000 calls and the city had over 900 evacuations conducted during the emergency response.

“We were able to reach people when they needed information the most,” Heid said.

With the storm now passed, the communications team continues to find new ways to engage citizens. A refurbished website features brighter colors, a more modern look, and a dramatic drop in total web pages to streamline information and resources. An added emphasis on media outreach leads to more positive coverage of city programs. And it increased direct communications with citizens, primarily through targeted emails.

“We’re putting together a strategic communications plan that leverages these outreach tools,” Heid said. “We can now think about highlighting the best parts of our community to attract business and just show residents what an amazing place this is to live.”

The North Port Communications Division is a recipient of the 2023 Granicus Digital Government Community Engagement Award for their communications response efforts during Hurricane Ian. The team acted quickly to launch multi-platform hurricane response campaigns, providing the main line of communication for thousands of residents as they made important and potentially life-saving decisions.