The Jurassic Park movie would have ended a lot differently if the park coordinators had come up with a more robust emergency plan in the event of the power going out.
Although school emergency communication strategies don’t really need to plan for ‘in the event of cloned dinosaurs escaping’, we recommend schools have reliable communication methods in place for the following situations:
Fires / bushfires
A student management system alone is not sufficient for emergencies
During an emergency or other disruptive event, schools are not only responsible for the safety of students, but also for communicating with parents to inform them of the situation and give them peace of mind.
For a few of these situations, (like epidemic outbreaks), it is probable that you would still have easy access to the school building and therefore, the computers. In this case, a messaging system from your SMS would suffice.
However, what if there was a power cut or the WiFi went out? What if there was a fire, earthquake or lockdown and you couldn’t access the school office? Would you still be able to get a message out to all parents quickly and easily using your SMS?
Real emergencies need purpose-built emergency messaging
Schools are generally confident with their method of communication…until an actual emergency occurs, and they realise there’s serious areas that need improvement.
This is precisely what happened to Wiremu Elliot, Principal of Lytton High School in Gisborne following a tsunami alert.
“We’ve got this list of every student and their family phone numbers in our SMS, but it would be a nightmare to call or text everyone individually,” says Wiremu. “We had all these emergency processes but had never actually had to do a real one, it’s always been drills. So when it actually happened, that really highlighted the need to find a better way of getting that more personal contact.”
Concerns were also raised on how to communicate with parents without power or access to school computers.
“It’s easy to post a message on Facebook from your phone but there are no guarantees that everyone will see it. In some emergencies you don’t have access to a computer. You have to evacuate. We needed to find smarter ways to manage this situation.”
Wiremu raised some good points. It is important for your school to have an easy strategy to inform parents about a closure or emergency that doesn’t rely on power or onsite computer access. You also need visibility of any parents who did not receive your message so you can try to contact them another way. School-links was able to help with our Emergency Alerts system. The School-links Emergency Alert App is a reliable, easy to use and fast way to communicate parents via text message during an emergency from your smart phone. Over 500 schools and Early Childhood Centres are able to use School-links Emergency Alert system when they need to get a text message through to parents urgently and reliably.
How do you know if your communication channels are a bit ‘prehistoric’? Ask yourself the following:
Five questions to ask about your school communication strategy
Do we have access to up-to-date family contact details?
Can we access this information off-site?
Do we have the ability to send emergency messages without access to power or school WiFi?
Does our methodology allow us to send out a message to all parents instantly?
Can we confirm that parents received the message?
If you answer no to any of the above questions, it may be time to evaluate your emergency communication plan.