Most of New Zealand has been battered by storms over the last few weeks, from ice and snow closing roads to rain causing flooding, slips and states of emergency being declared across multiple cities and regions.
Fortunately for schools, a lot of this disruption happened during the school holidays. However, forecasters predict that we will likely experience more wild weather this winter, and with the grounds already saturated, it won’t take much to unsettle things again.
It is a timely reminder for New Zealand schools to review their communications plans around disruptive weather events, and how they can could impact their school community – such as forced closures or creating dangerous travel conditions. Trying to understand how the the school community reacted to any unscheduled school closures, weather warnings and emergencies is useful:
Did parents understand that texts and emails are also school channels of communication and did not clog the phonelines ringing in?
Was the school able to warn parents about hazards or road closures that could affect their travel time to school?
Did staff understand their responsibilities when flooding made it evident the school needed to close immediately?
Did the school have reliable technology and processes in place to quickly reassure parents and communicate actions to take?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you need to implement a system that allows you to communicate to your school community in a quick, efficient and cost-effective manner. School administrators need to be the calm during the storm and ease concerns of parents, students and staff by keeping them updated and informed.
To help encourage effortless communication no matter the situation your school is facing, make sure your plan has the following features:
1. Remote access
Having remote access to your contacts and a messaging platform, such as School-links Emergency Alerts platform. This way you don’t need to send anyone in to the school to send out a message – you just need access to your phone.
2. The ability to send one mass message
The most efficient way to notify parents of your school’s closure is to send out one mass notification message to a whole database. Sending a text message, rather than relying on website, app or social media notifications will save a lot of time and resources.
3. Delivery reports
Delivery reports are confirmations that show when each parent receives the text or e-mail. This will notify school staff of any parent who hasn’t received the message and alert them to take action to contact them by another communication channel.
4. Parents have confidence the school will contact them
Constantly remind parents that in the event of a school closure, the school will notify them. If parents do not know that they will be contacted by you, many will attempt to call the school to find out what is happening, resulting in the school phone system being inundated with calls and extra stress put on administration staff.
Being prepared now will keep you calm during the storm.