Use these tips to create timely emergency updates for constituents.
Pages focused on emergency information are vital for constituents in need of timely information about unexpected events.
In the case of a major emergency, the Governor’s Office, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and others such as the Department of Public Health will take the lead.
Your organization may have relevant content to post, such as office closures during the COVID-19 pandemic or a serious storm. It needs to sync with content from organizations taking the lead on the state’s response so that there is no duplication of effort or conflicting information.
Choosing content types
If your organization does need to publish content about an emergency, several Mass.gov content types are particularly useful:
News items include press releases and press statements that may contain your initial content published about an emergency.
Information Details is the most common approach to getting more detailed emergency information on Mass.gov. These pages have a longer shelf life than a News item, and are meant to be regularly updated as information changes.
Alerts, which can run sitewide (by users with certain permissions), on specific pages, or across one or more organizations’ pages, complement News items and Information Details pages
Promotional pages, intended to run on Mass.gov for a limited amount of time, can highlight key information and direct people to more specifics on other pages
You’ll likely want to link to at least some of this content from your agency’s Organization page. This might include using the Featured Message box, which is designed to highlight important and timely information near the top of the page.
Using Information Details pages
Info Details pages are typically the right choice for detailed emergency information because they are so flexible and easily updated.
MEMA has experience creating and publishing Mass.gov content in anticipation of or in the aftermath of emergencies, including major weather events.
As seen in its now unpublished page about the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas line emergency, MEMA used the Info Details template. Its table of contents gave people a way to scan topics, from situation updates to emergency resources.
Quick links to claims information, emergency housing resources, and key phone numbers were valuable to those in need of help.
Example of MEMA using an Info Details page for emergency updates.
Links to press releases providing updates on an emergency would be another way to help people stay informed.
Hint: Depending upon how frequently your organization posts emergency information, it could make sense to create a template page in drafts to have at the ready.
Alerts, which are designed to convey brief, attention-grabbing messages, provide the quickest way to get content on Mass.gov about emergencies.
Only the Governor’s Office and MEMA have the authority to run Alerts across the entire site, but all other organizations can publish Alerts across their own organization’s pages or on individual pages.
Page-specific alerts can be helpful to get information to consituents quickly in an emergency.
Page- and organization-level Alerts can appear as:
A standalone Alert title
An Alert title with a link to an existing page
An Alert title and brief Alert message with no link
An Alert title and brief Alert message with a link to an existing page
An Alert title and brief Alert message with a link to an Alert Detail page
Alerts are best for calling attention to that content rather than trying to convey it all within the Alert banner.
Use the Timestamp field to indicate to site visitors when your Alert was last updated.
Using Promotional pages
Like Alerts, Promotional pages are best for conveying a small amount of important information. Also, like Alerts, they are intended to stay on the site for a short period of time,. Both will automatically be unpublished after a period of time that you can configure.
Promotional pages typically use Friendly URLs, which are short and memorable. They’re great for use on signs, in emails, etc.
These highly visual pages are useful for highlighting important information and encouraging people to take specific actions.
An example of how a Promotional page might be used in an emergency would be to feature a prominent link to a page with key phone numbers and links to more detailed Information Details pages.