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Municipalities, GPS Tracking, and Hurricane Season: What to Know Brian Dziuk | Jul 30, 2020 2:56:12 PM

From June 1st to November 30th, states along the East Coast have to contend with the potential hazards of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Hurricanes can come in a variety of sizes and severities—ranging from mildly irritating tropical storms that simply spread debris and excessive rainwater to massive storms like 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which caused around $160 billion dollars in damage.

Organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) track hurricane activity across the USA and provide advice to help businesses, municipalities, and individuals prepare for these storms ahead of time to mitigate storm damage risks.

Even if your business has weathered past storms with minimal damage, it’s important to remember this: Hurricanes should not be taken lightly. These storms bring with them torrential rain, powerful winds capable of tearing down buildings and knocking out power, and storm surge in coastal areas that can reach between 8 and 20 feet. That’s enough to put entire one-story houses and other buildings underwater.

All these factors pose extreme risks to public and commercial vehicle fleets alike. So, what can you do as a fleet manager to prepare your fleet for the impending storm and keep your fleet vehicles and drivers safe in the aftermath?

GPS Tracking for Fleet Management During Hurricane Season

Using GPS tracking for fleet management provides several invaluable benefits for vehicle fleets. Here are a few of the ways that fleet tracking solutions can help during hurricane season:

1: GPS Tracking Helps Track Fleet Vehicles in Real Time

Both during the hours leading up to the storm’s impact and in its aftermath, being able to track the locations of vehicles and their drivers is key to ensuring the safety of your vehicle fleet. With GPS live tracking solutions, you can track and monitor the locations of your vehicles anytime, anywhere. The tracking software allows you to access detailed reports that inform you about where each vehicle has been, who has been operating any specific vehicle, and for how long it has been running.

2: GPS Tracking Remote Diagnostics Helps Prepare Fleet Vehicles

It is not uncommon for emergency responders, such as medical personnel and law enforcement, to cease services during the height of a storm. This helps to keep them safe so they don’t become casualties on the road. However, when the height of the storm passes, they need to quickly be put back in action on the roads to provide fire and medical services to those in need and to keep law and order.

In the event of a hurricane, an effective GPS fleet management system can help you to ensure that every fleet vehicle is prepared for the storm and the aftermath. One of the ways it can do this is using remote diagnostics, which can help you track which vehicles require preventative maintenance. Some GPS tracking devices do this by connecting to a vehicles’ onboard diagnostics system, which allows you to track key engine performance data. You can use this data to prepare a list of replacement parts that you can have on hand in the days, weeks, or even months after the storm when parts are hard to come by.

Using remote diagnostics can help you to verify to the best of your ability that every fleet vehicle is operating in optimal condition after the storm passes.

3: GPS Tracking Helps Monitor Migrated Fleet Vehicles

If an impending hurricane is predicted to bring dangerous flooding, some fleet managers may decide to migrate their fleets to a safer location to avoid rising water. This may mean parking them on higher ground, keeping them in an indoor parking garage, or moving them further inland. If you do decide you need to move your vehicles, you’ll want to be able to keep tabs on them to ensure they haven’t been stolen.

With asset tracking software, you can see the location of your vehicles on an interactive map. You can even set up a virtual perimeter using Rastrac’s geofencing software tool (more on this later). If any tagged vehicles enter or leave that area, you’ll receive a text or email alert. If a vehicle does appear to have been stolen, GPS tracking location data can be given to authorities immediately. This greatly increases your odds of recovering your stolen assets.

How to Use Geofencing to Protect Your Assets During Hurricane Season

Geofencing is the term for setting up a virtual perimeter (or “fence”) in a GPS tracking software. When a GPS-tagged asset crosses the geofence, an automated report or alert can be generated. This can be invaluable for protecting sensitive assets during hurricane season.

Municipal vehicles and equipment can be a prime target for looting during the aftermath of a hurricane—especially if they are left alone in a lot with lower-than-normal security because of an impending or recent storm. With geofencing alerts, you can immediately know when assets are moved off the lot and take measures to protect them.

Hurricane Season GPS Tracking and Employee Safety

Harsh, stormy weather creates many hazards for any workers that drive for a living. Crews may need to be called out to cover areas that have been decimated by a hurricane. GPS monitoring solutions contribute to employee safety by:

1: Monitoring Driving Habits

Aside from being able to track the current location of vehicles in the field at any given time, GPS tracking can help you monitor your employees’ driving habits. For example, are employees driving too fast on wet roads? With GPS, you can track that and provide alerts or reminders to encourage drivers to behave more safely—helping to prevent accidents.

Since driver behaviors contribute significantly to at-fault accidents, it’s important to monitor things like:

  1. Speeding
  2. After-hours vehicle use
  3. Sharp cornering
  4. Seatbelt use
  5. Braking habits
  6. Rapid accelerating
  7. Excessive engine idling

2: Giving Drivers Panic Buttons and Using Emergency Alerts

Some GPS tracking devices include a panic alert button that can be instantly activated during an emergency. When pressed, the button sends the alert to the command center, and assistance can be sent out immediately to the designated location.

Having GPS location data can help emergency responders find drivers and their vehicles more quickly. This, in turn, helps to improve driver safety during an emergency.

3: Using Weather Overlays to Improve Driver Safety

Some GPS tracking solutions give fleet managers, dispatchers, and drivers access to a weather overlay feature that supplies continuous severe weather updates. Drivers who are at risk can respond accordingly to dangerous weather notifications.

Optimizing Routes During Hurricane Season with GPS Tracking

There are many municipal tasks that can be made more efficient with optimized route scheduling. Two key examples include street cleaning/maintenance and emergency service response.

Improving Street Maintenance and Cleanup with Route Optimization Tools

Keeping streets clean during hurricane season requires fleet managers to confirm that every street in the service area has been thoroughly covered. GPS route optimization tools such as StreetComplete are particularly useful for this task.

Some jobs, such as street cleaning, require repeated applications during severe weather conditions. The StreetComplete software works by establishing timelines of coverage and applying a visual color reference to a digital map. A street that has just been cleaned will be marked with a specific color set by the user (typically green). Over time, the mark will change color to indicate if the road needs to be checked again.

Users can pick whatever colors and timeframes to use for their street cleaning requirements, such as once a day, twice a day, once a week, or any other service schedule. Fleet managers can be fully apprised at all times of when each street in their service was last cleaned and when the next cleaning day and time is scheduled.

For example, a freshly-cleaned road could be colored green on the map, a road that hasn't been serviced in 12 hours could be colored yellow, a road that hasn't been serviced in 24 hours colored orange, and a road that hasn't been cleaned in over 2 days could be colored red to indicate a road that needs immediate service.

Improving Emergency Response During a Hurricane

During hurricane season, keeping streets clean may require a rapid response as roads may be disrupted by fallen trees, rocks, or other debris. Street cleaning may need to be done more often as hurricanes dump debris in major roadways. Specific GPS features help street cleaners respond to emergency situations that may arise in the event of a hurricane. These are:

  • In-Vehicle Navigation. Dispatchers can relay address information immediately to drivers who have access to in-vehicle navigation features. Features, including maps, turn-by-turn guidance displays, or maneuver lists enhance driver response and job completion time.
  • Dispatch Optimizations. Fleet management software allows fleet managers to know the precise location of every vehicle in the fleet, and this gives them the ability to identify the closest vehicle to a specific address. This feature speeds up the response time and allows dispatchers to quickly reroute vehicles in the field when necessary.

Additionally, with GPS tracking software, you’ll be able to adjust travel routes in real time. Then, by using a mobile GPS tracking app like PocketRastrac, you can communicate these changes to your drivers. They can also send you messages to keep you informed of what is going on out in the field and to update you when they’re clocking in/out or taking a break. This way, you can always keep track of where your drivers are during work hours and communicate with them efficiently and effectively if a problem or route change arises.

When it comes to hurricane season, you can never be too safe or well prepared. Our comprehensive asset management can give you peace of mind that your vehicles and employees protected even if severe weather conditions.

Are you ready to implement valuable GPS tracking solutions into your fleet this hurricane season? Reach out to one of our experts today!

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