It’s perhaps a sad commentary on troubling times that we feel the need to stay constantly connected with our childrens’ schools.
Some very scary events that need not be listed here have made it a requirement that schools be able to reach all students at a moment’s notice and not, as in past days, in a series of telephone calls, one after the other.
And yet, even if not for those very scary events, the messaging solutions available to schools today might still have become necessary. Both for emergencies and non-emergencies, the convenience and flexibility to reach students and their parents quickly and at any time is seen as a prerequisite for responsible schooling.
Mass Notification is Central to Managing Emergencies
Effective notification systems play a central role in managing emergency situations. Actually, because of the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, federal law has mandated them. Any institution that gets federal funding is required to implement mass notification capability.
For example, college students now are routinely alerted by group SMS text in the event of a campus lockdown due to an accident (dangerous chemical spill in a lab) or an incident (gunman spotted on campus). SMS texting is faster and more efficient than email, which we may check only infrequently. Smartphones are an ever-present part of our lives today (many people even sleep with their phones nearby), so texting is the fastest way to reach us.
In classrooms or offices, high-visibility LED alphanumeric pagers can be used to notify students and staff when a PA announcement is inappropriate or might cause panic.
Automated messaging solutions keep all stakeholders informed while preventing congestion around an affected area. In a primary or secondary school, a quick text can keep parents apprised of what’s happening and direct them to follow orderly procedures in picking up children, for example.
In using SMS texting for mass notification, experts advise an opt-out system (parents or students may opt out; otherwise their emergency contact information is included). Other recommendations: Use the system judiciously to develop credibility and avoid the “sky is falling” syndrome that might cause people to opt out.
Systems Also Useful for Non-Emergencies
SMS messaging proves equally valuable in less-urgent circumstances, too. In fact, non-emergencies are where we usually experience mass notification.
One good, recent example: The many snow days delighted children have experienced during this harsh winter. Most of their parents received text messages telling them school was canceled. (Those same parents may soon get other messages informing them about makeup days. Sorry, kids.)
Texting solutions, via cell phone or alphanumeric pager, also can be used for efficient delivery of student services. For example, instead of waiting outside a counselor’s office, a student can attend class until the counselor has time. Or, instead of waiting in line for an ID photo, the student can be summoned when it’s his or her turn.
Schools also can use pager and smartphone texts to communicate seamlessly with parents (informing them of important school meetings), in the event a sick student needs to go home, or if the parent needs to attend a disciplinary meeting.
However you choose to employ an automated messaging solution, you will be assured of retaining close communication with students and parents, whether it’s merely for informational reasons or to keep people out of harm’s way.
Find Out More About Cell Phone Paging
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Mai Lyn Ngo is a marketing coordinator at LRS and ambassador for solutions that create a better guest experience.