AWS Public Sector Blog

Response, Recovery, & Rebuild: Sonoma County’s Emergency Response Plan

While the fires spread in Sonoma County in October 2017, the focus was on fighting the flames that burned more than 110,000 acres and on helping the citizens displaced from their homes get access to emergency response resources. In addition to shelter, food, and water, time was another important resource.

“I just love waiting in line,” said no one in the history of the world.

Citizens have high expectations for government services, whether at the state or municipal level, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. Immediately following the Sonoma County fires, the staffing resources in place could not handle the demands required to provide services and educate the public on what resources were available. To scale to meet the demands of citizens, QLess, an innovator in customer-interaction management (CIM) technology, worked around the clock to deploy its Amazon Web Services (AWS)-hosted solution for Sonoma County in a single weekend.

The Sonoma County IT Department worked with QLess to deliver a technology solution that allowed residents displaced from the fires to receive support and services without having to wait in line for hours at the Local Assistance Center (LAC) established as a centralized resource for all government and recovery services.

“It was amazing to me how quickly it was developed and how easy it was for us to use. Our success with that operation is without question a testament to the technology,” said Thomas Cirimele, Information Systems Manager, Sonoma County Permit and Resources Management Department. “As devastating as this experience was to our community, it has led to some lasting process improvements that will serve us well into the future.”

How it works

With QLess, Sonoma County was able to handle the flow of people and demands, completing recovery services quickly and efficiently. Citizens enter virtual queues from on-site kiosks, by computer, or from mobile devices, and are notified via text message as their turn approaches. Citizens are able to wait wherever they want instead of in a crowded lobby or in a long line.

The result? To date, QLess has saved over 100 million people more than 6,000 years from waiting in line. Additionally, government employees spend less time managing traffic and listening to complaints from waiting patrons, and instead can focus on serving citizens and getting them on their way.

The technology solution runs on AWS so it can scale to meet demands during the recovery process in Sonoma County. QLess has been powered by AWS since 2017 for reliability, security, and scalability.

 “Using AWS tools, Auto Scaling, and Elastic Load Balancing, your application can scale up or down based on demand. Backed by Amazon’s massive infrastructure, you have access to compute and storage resources when you need them,” said Alex Bäcker, CEO of QLess.

Learn more about emergency response for the digital citizen with QLess.

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWS_Nonprofits).