When a catastrophic category five hurricane threatened landfall in Palm Beach County, [Fla.], Palm Tran took all steps necessary to prepare for the worst possible outcome. While residents scurried to fill gas tanks and gather supplies, Palm Tran transported the homeless to nearby shelters free of cost.
Furthermore, Palm Tran announced a “Free Transit Day” on August 31, 2019, which assisted riders with reaching family members, evacuating to shelters and running last-minute errands. As the hurricane neared the Florida coast, the exact path of the storm remained unclear. Nevertheless, Palm Tran staff worked around-the-clock to keep residents informed and prepared.
To transport the homeless, Palm Tran’s fixed-route buses traveled to [several local parks] the Sunday before the storm. Many of those picked up did not have plans of evacuating before Palm Tran’s arrival. In the event of a category five hurricane, this transportation could have been the difference between life and death.
“Amid an oncoming natural disaster, it is critical the most vulnerable citizens are not overlooked,” Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia C. Baker said. “We transported hundreds of people to safety and made sure no one was left out in the storm — and Palm Tran played a critical role in getting everyone out of harm’s way.”
Palm Tran’s paratransit service, Palm Tran Connection, transported disabled and special needs residents to shelters that met their specific needs. In total, Palm Tran Connection made more than 318 evacuation trips leading up to Hurricane Dorian.
Palm Tran’s administrative staff worked tirelessly to keep customers up to date. More than a thousand calls poured into Palm Tran’s call center. In addition, all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) were updated every few hours with information such as listing bus routes near shelters, providing scheduling updates and answering common questions and concerns. Palm Tran’s Facebook posts reached more than 56,000 people and received more than 450 shares in the days before, during and after Hurricane Dorian.
“In a natural disaster, keeping all lines of communication open is crucial. When we looked at how many people we were reaching just on social media, it was astounding,” said Palm Tran Senior Manager of Public Relations Joe Harrington. “It exemplified the importance of reaching our customers in every way possible.”
Throughout the storm, Palm Tran staff was hard at work at Palm Beach County’s Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Information Center. The teams in these locations received first-hand communication and updates on evacuation needs and information to be disseminated to the public related to the storm.
In the end, Palm Beach County was spared the brunt of the storm, however, the Bahamas was not as fortunate. Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Great Abaco and the Grand Bahamas as a category five storm, which moved at a glacial pace. The storm resulted in devastating destruction and fatalities. When Bahamas evacuees arrived in Palm Beach County via the Port of Palm Beach, Palm Tran buses helped provide transportation to Tri-Rail, Palm Beach International Airport, local rental car agencies, and shelters.
“I am proud of everyone at Palm Tran who went above and beyond to keep safety at the forefront. The efforts Palm Tran took to ensure no one was left behind truly exemplify our mission to provide access to an opportunity for everyone; safely, efficiently and courteously,” Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes said.