Tim Coon, City Manager of Meriden, CT, shared his experience stewarding his team’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing the community for an emerging new normal. A 31-year US Army veteran and former official in Connecticut’s Office of Emergency Management, Coon shared that effective crisis management depends on strong and effective communication with residents and staff.
Communications are key to managing the crisis
Communicate “why things are being done the way they are”
Prioritize internal communications
Have a lead staff member dedicated to strategic communications
Gain compliance for difficult social distancing rules through education and outreach
Strict enforcement measures such as fines and penalties may needlessly escalate tensions.
There is no need to put police officers and city workers at risk.
Develop a reopening plan with clear milestones
Build a plan based on measurable criteria and milestones.
Communicate the plan to residents and key stakeholders.
Follow the plan and update frequently.
Take advantage of virtual council meetings to increase resident engagement
Council meetings are now taking place virtually.
Online meetings give new opportunities for residents who previously may not have been able to participate in person to submit issues and concerns.