When COVID-19 first began to disrupt business as usual in mid-March, the OP/FYI newsletter took an unplanned hiatus.
The rapidly changing impact of a growing worldwide pandemic made a bi-monthly publication distributed by the U.S. Postal Service a less-than-ideal way to keep citizens informed.
Reliance quickly shifted to communications tools that provided ways to reach citizens within hours and even minutes when a rapid response was required.
The Village website, social media and email lists became the primary and most timely ways to share important official news with the community.
COVID-19 continues to dominate much of everyday life in Oak Park for the foreseeable future. But thanks to the vigilance and perseverance of residents and dedicated municipal employees, a certain sense of normalcy has returned to the community.
And so has the OP/FYI newsletter.
The challenges of keeping the community informed in the midst of a worldwide pandemic also exposed the weaknesses of the printed word distributed by mail and the need to build acceptance of the Village’s electronic communications tools.
The Village’s Facebook page now has 13,000 followers, with another 6,600 following the dedicated Police and Fire departments’ pages. The Village’s Twitter page has 8,000 followers with another 2,000 following the Police feed. And the Village’s original direct communications email tool — enews — now boasts nearly 5,000 subscribers, which equals the Village’s dedicated emergency notification subscription system.
What these electronic tools bring to official municipal communications is speed and timeliness. They also make it easy for citizens to share important information within their own social networks, which means critical messages can spread rapidly far beyond what the Village could ever hope to achieve on its own.
So while the OP/FYI newsletter has returned to the Village’s 25,000 plus residential mailboxes for now, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for residents to embrace Village social media, sign up for enews and emergency notifications, and keep a close eye on www.oak-park.us/covid19 in case circumstances call for the timely messages that no printed publication could ever deliver.