Division B
Category10 - Other
2009 Osceola Hurricane Handbook
Kissimee Utility Authority

RESEARCH/SITUATION ANALYSIS – “Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy,” said Max Mayfield, former Director of the National Hurricane Center at the opening of the 2009 Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference. The quote is a reminder that we all need to be well prepared for bad weather.

Kissimmee, Fla. is certainly no stranger to natural disasters. In 1995, Hurricane Erin struck the area causing widespread damage and power outages. A violent F4 tornado ripped through the area in February 1998, carving a nine-mile path through Kissimmee and leaving 25 dead, 147 injured, 1,370 structures damaged or destroyed, more than $42 million in damage and 11,000 residents without electricity. In 2004, Mother Nature sent not one, or two, but three disastrous hurricanes straight through the city. Kissimmee Utility Authority was the hardest hit electric utility in Central Florida that year, losing service to 100 percent of its customers in Hurricane Charley, 36 percent in Hurricane Frances and 59 percent in Hurricane Jeanne.

Secondary and primary research conducted in the spring of 2009 by KUA staff identified a need for emergency preparedness information specific to Osceola County. Although television and radio stations in Orlando create so-called ‘regional hurricane guides’ for Central Florida residents, they typically included generic information and telephone numbers specific only to neighboring Orange County.

STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES - To effectively communicate with residents, we identified five goals that we wanted to accomplish: 1) to provide emergency preparedness, evacuation and shelter information specific to residents of Osceola County in a single document; 2) to communicate power restoration procedures; 3) to communicate key electrical and generator safety messages to prevent accidental injury or death; 4) to obtain a minimum of 100,000 earned media impressions to raise awareness of the handbook; and 5) to keep the cost of the guide below the budgeted amount of $1.00 per customer.

IMPLEMENTATION - Our first step was to decide how best to present the information to Osceola County residents. Primary research conducted by telephone indicated that a printed guide would best reach our intended audience. Our next step was to develop and issue three Requests For Proposal (RFP): the first for graphic design services, the second for printing and the third for distribution.

Additional telephone research identified a similar-sized utility in Lafayette, La. that had recently gone through the process of developing a hurricane guide for its customers in southern Louisiana. Using their guide as a resource as well as others from throughout the southeast, we developed an attractive, eye-catching layout. KUA’s corporate communications staff conducted several days of secondary and primary research to gather appropriate content for the 40-page handbook, including tips on preparing a personal evacuation plan, assembling a disaster supplies kit, generator safety, and what to do before, during and after a hurricane or disaster.

Our next step was determining how best to distribute the publication. Direct mail was cost prohibitive. We explored other options, but it wasn’t until the printing bids came back for the handbook that we discovered a new option. As an added incentive to win the printing bid, our local newspaper offered free insertion of the handbook in its publication. The Osceola News-Gazette is published twice a week and delivered free of charge to every household in Kissimmee. This distribution option was ideal because of its low cost (free!) and the fact that the newspaper’s delivery network was already set up to reach our customer base. After further discussions with its publisher, the newspaper also agreed to run several free print ads to help promote the handbook.

The guide was converted to a .pdf file and added to the utility’s website – www.kua.com/hurricane – for easy download by the general public. Although the demand isn’t quite there yet for a printed Spanish version, the handbook was translated into Spanish and posted on the website. A short, 15-second commercial was produced by KUA and broadcast on Kissimmee’s government access channel throughout hurricane season to create additional awareness of the handbook.

EVALUATION - The hurricane handbook was a success by all accepted measures. The guides were inserted in the newspaper and delivered during the first week of June. The TV commercial was broadcast 60 times daily throughout July and August to more than 15,000 households that subscribe to Bright House Networks. Media coverage included ads in the Osceola News-Gazette and articles in our monthly customer newsletter, Energy Informer. Total earned media impressions: 120,000. Total advertising impressions in print and broadcast: 1.9 million.

KUA effectively used its 2009 hurricane handbook to provide customers with critical information on power restoration, electrical safety and the safe use of portable generators. No accidental injuries or electrocutions were reported in Kissimmee during the summer storm season and the six-month hurricane season. Our research showed that the hurricane handbook was a key driver in public education and accident prevention.

BUDGET - The cost of producing 65,000 hurricane handbooks: $15,172 (printing and mailing), $3,640 (graphic design) and illustration ($900). Total project cost: $19,712 or 32 cents per utility customer (68% below our goal). Total value of staff time was an additional $3,200 (40 hours) but was not part of the project budget.