Earthquake communications without the cracks
“Simple, fast communication with your parent community.”
Jeremy Edwards, Principal
Northland School is a Wellington primary school catering for Years One to Eight. The school has a roll of approximately 360 students. It is a focused, forward-looking learning community.
Need: Manual communication not effective
A number of years ago, after a snow fall, the school found that a number of teachers and students were unable to reach the school. The decision was eventually made to close the school for the day. To notify the community of the closure, they had to place a notice on the local radio stations, update the school website and position a couple of staff members at the gates to turn students away as they arrived.
This was a very laborious and ineffective method of community communication and it was after this that Principal Jeremy Edwards realised there must be a better way.
Solution: Learning the ropes of an emergency communication system
Following their snow day, Jeremy decided to invest in an emergency messaging system. After assessing the options, they decided School-links was the best solution for them. “While the system does do other things, we use it only for emergency communications. This, in part, is so that when parents receive a message they know it is something important and take notice,” explains Jeremy.
“We’ve had it about three years. We could have used it once before and it was only after a lockdown incident that we thought we should have used the text messaging system,” explains Jeremy. The school went into lockdown after advisement from Police. A number of the older students had cell phones and had texted their parents and by the time the school had completed its lockdown procedures and ensured everyone was safe the school’s phone lines were blocked with worried calls. “We hadn’t thought of that at the time but now we know that’s what we should do, delegate that task off to my office manager to get that message out there while I was ensuring the school was getting into lockdown,” said Jeremy. “We learnt some lessons from it.”
Outcome: Crack-less communication process
Following the Kaikoura earthquake on the 14th November 2016, Northland School had the opportunity to put all their learnings into practice. Due to the severity of the quake, all of their school buildings had to go through an engineer’s check prior to opening. This meant closing the school for the day and the opportunity to put the School-links system into action. “I had to get the property checked so I needed to let the community know quickly that the school was not going to be open on that Monday morning. So I got my mobile, clicked on the School-links app, put in my password, composed a message and pushed send; it took less than a minute,” explains Jeremy.
Once the all clear was given by the engineers, the school was able to send a follow up message letting the community know they would be open as usual the following day.
The whole process went off without a hitch and without a single student or staff member turning up to school. “It was very positive,” says Jeremy.
The main benefit of School-links that Northland School recognised following the event was how quickly they could get a message out to their community. “These days, people want information instantly so this is a fast way of doing it. After I click the app, send the message, I can then concentrate on the school. I’m not standing at the gate,” explains Jeremy.