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New York City Housing Authority Keeps “City Within a City” Safe and Informed with Everbridge

Everbridge, Inc., the global leader in critical event management (CEM), announced that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the largest public housing authority in North America, expanded the use of the company’s mass notification platform to reach approximately 550,000 New Yorkers living in 316 public housing developments across NYC’s five boroughs. NYCHA recently expanded the program to include additional residents under Section 8, which allows private landlords to rent apartments to low-income tenants. The Housing Authority also uses the platform to communicate with its 14,000 employees.

“NYCHA handles a population roughly the size of Atlanta,” said Rudy Murillo, Director of the Office of Emergency Management for the New York City Housing Authority. “With about half a million residents living in 167,000 apartments, we are a city within a city. The challenge we had was quickly reaching all of those residents in an emergency or if we needed to get important information to them right away. We had a system in place before Everbridge, but it took too long to get a message out, sometimes a few hours. With Everbridge, we got that time down to minutes.”

“Timing is critical,” continued Murillo. “We have a requirement that when there is an interruption of gas or electric service, we have to notify tenants within a certain period. And it may not be an entire building. It may be a few units; it may be one stair hall. With Everbridge, we can target our messaging to a specific population, stair hall, or a certain set of buildings. It’s not all or nothing.”

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Another benefit of the platform, according to Murillo, is the ease of sending alerts in the right language to the right people. “We have four required languages – English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. In the past, we had to combine all of the languages in one message. Sometimes you had to sit there and listen to all of the messages in every language before hearing the one you understood. Now, with Everbridge, we send out messages only in the language preference specified by the household. It saves a lot of time and eliminates confusion for the residents.”

When COVID-19 broke out, NYCHA was prepared for mass notification. “We were fortunate to have Everbridge on board before COVID hit,” Murillo explained. “We were able to notify residents and employees of potential impacts of the pandemic, or even just let them know to monitor their phones and emails for further information. In the beginning of the pandemic, there were lots of unknowns and question marks. But we were able to put people on alert and informed as NYC figured out specific guidance for us to follow.”

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After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York in 2012, the City wanted to make sure it could communicate rapidly and reliably not only with residents, but with employees.

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“This is a great tool for senior leadership,” said Murillo. “The Housing Authority has 14,000 employees. Whether it’s our CEO or COO, when they want to send out information to every employee, it’s simpler when they can do it all from one platform with ease.”

Murillo said moving the Housing Authority onto Everbridge was a ‘no-brainer’ since both the City of New York and New York State already use the platform as part of the larger Everbridge Network.

“We are honored to serve the New York City Housing Authority, the largest public housing authority in the country, to help ensure the safety of residents and NYCHA employees,” said Brian Toolan, Vice President of Public Safety at Everbridge. “Everbridge’s long-standing relationship with the state of New York includes powering the statewide emergency notification platform NY-ALERT and the New York City emergency notification platform Notify NYC, as well as airports, hospitals, universities, government agencies and businesses throughout the state. In an emergency, all sectors of the community must come together to work on restoring comfort, safety and resiliency. The Everbridge platform enables a coordinated public-private sector emergency response for municipalities, states and countries around the world.”

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