Why Government Sites Matter: A Case Study of One Florida County Website

Through wind, torrential rain and floods, Pantheon and its partner Promet Source deliver a consistent website experience.

It’s a good bet that most people don’t think much about their local government website. Until it rains. Or pours. Consider this story of Martin County, Florida. 

Located on the Atlantic Coast, the County is home to about 160,000 people. Floods, rising sea levels and seasonal hurricanes keep many public service organizations busy. In Martin County, local citizens depend on the Martin County website to keep them informed and safe in the event of power outages and evacuations, among other things. 

“Our website isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. We’re all hands on deck every day,” said Jennifer Hagedorn, Web Content Analyst at Martin County. “In addition to emergencies, other issues are always coming up, like the recent half-penny sales tax [for school upgrades].”

Dozens of staff who contribute to updating the County’s website rely on its consistent availability. That’s why this Sunshine State county decided to relinquish its antiquated in-house website infrastructure and outsourced its IT needs to Promet Source, a Pantheon strategic partner.

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Martin County web page

Real-time Alerts and Steady Uptime Help Citizens Steer Clear of Hazards

Martin County’s website goes far beyond supporting a steady flow of user traffic, which generally averages close to a million users and over half a million page views per month. During emergencies, such as hurricanes, those metrics typically double. And during the pandemic, those numbers more than tripled. “Our website was our #1 tool to communicate all the safety information people needed: mask mandates, hand-washing, vaccine updates and the CDC updates,” Hagedorn said.

Pantheon has provided a seamless platform with great uptime. Anytime we’ve had anything affect our site performance, Pantheon communicates it right away on its Incidents Page, so that’s really helpful. And when we submit a ticket to our Promet Source developer, he escalates it to Pantheon and we get a response almost immediately. The relationship is great for us because we can quickly tell folks what’s going on that might impact users in any way.

- Jennifer Hagedorn, Web Content Analyst at Martin County

Other emergencies that require government intervention include floods, which are not as predictable as hurricanes and usually get less media attention. The combination of king tides and heavy rain often leads to things like impassable boardwalks and streets. During these compounded emergencies, the county’s six-person emergency communications team kicks into high gear, pushing constant updates through the website’s AlertMartin tool. The county’s ability to keep citizens informed about all critical situations hinges on website availability.

Pantheon’s WebOps Tools Improve Website Performance and Enhance Security

Providing many governance-related documents and emergency notifications could be a tall order for a county government. Factor in the revenue-generating web page that includes a water park and a golf course — along with a recently launched intranet page — and the workload could become overwhelming. But Promet Source’s talent and Pantheon tools like Dev, Test, Live and Multidev make it easy and quick to update pages or spin up new ones when needed.

Hagedorn particularly appreciates Multidev. “We didn’t have that on Acquia, and sometimes we had problems with content getting erased,” she said. “Now, on Pantheon, we have a more agile process for the Promet Source team to set up environments without impacting our weekly sprints and releases. It’s super helpful!”

The county also benefits from the quarterly reports Pantheon provides about website performance, best practices, accessibility and SEO. According to Hagedorn, “the adjustments we’ve made based on these reports have improved page load speeds and overall site performance.”

Martin County also places a high value on Pantheon’s security features and certifications, like fully managed, dedicated HTTPS certificates and high-grade encryption with TLS 1.3 deployed globally from Pantheon’s Global CDN. After almost four years on the Pantheon platform, Martin County’s website hasn’t been the victim of bot traffic or other cyberattacks.

In the past couple of years, a few of our neighboring counties or healthcare systems have been attacked. Knock on wood, we haven’t had any problems with cyberattacks, and I think that’s due to Pantheon’s tight security and fast security patches and updates.

- Jennifer Hagedorn, Web Content Analyst at Martin County

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