Great schools produce future leaders, thinkers, and problem solvers. A child’s school plays a very important role in his or her life, yet there are some key components every school needs in order to do its job properly, especially when it comes to communications. Schools not only play the role of educator, but in the case of a school emergency, administrators and teachers become responsible for one thing: protecting the students. Whether the issue is severe weather, fire, power outage, a campus intrusion, or other crisis scenario, schools depend on their phone system to alert staff and parents via calls, emails, texts, and more. Your school’s emergency alert message, which informs parents of an emergency on campus and how the school is handling the situation, is a vital part of any crisis communication plan. Here are four items to include in your school’s emergency alert system:
1) Safety First
When parents receive a message from their child’s school, the first reaction is often one of panic. Once you inform them that there was an emergency at the school, immediately let parents know that all students are safe. If this is not the case, it is the job of emergency personnel to personally contact the parents of the children who were harmed. Always inform parents ahead of time how your school and local authorities handles each kind of emergency situation.
2) What Happens Next?
Let parents know what to expect. Will the students be sent home on buses? Will they be transported to an off-campus location for pickup? Should the parents plan to pick them up directly from school? Inform parents of specific steps they can or should take, and when they can expect their child to be home. This is also important because during emergency situations, parents usually drive directly to the school. If they are told to do otherwise in advance, it gives first responders the space to do their job.
3) Keep it Brief
Short messages that contain only key information are preferred by parents, and are more likely to be listened to in their entirety. If alerts are too long, the chance of parents rushing to the school is more likely. Let parents know the basics and that their children are ok, and they will feel better about getting the full story through other means.
4) Beat the Media
During some extreme events (such as a campus shooting), the rumor mill can quickly take over and spur actions that interfere with emergency responders or that disrupt your school’s ability to properly manage the situation. By sending out your school’s emergency alert system immediately following an incident, you will give yourself the best chance of reaching parents before possibly inaccurate news is reported through social media, TV, radio, or even the students.
- Collect and maintain current emergency contact information for each student. Ideally, there should be two points of contact in case one is not reachable. Before an emergency occurs, notify parents of who will be contacted (main contact or all of the listed contacts) and how (phone, email, text, social media, etc.) they will be notified. This may also change based on the type of emergency.
- Emergency phone messages are the fastest way to get in touch with parents during an emergency, but don’t neglect informing via social media as well. Updating your Facebook and Twitter accounts is a fast way to get the correct message out to not only parents, but the media as well. Know ahead of time who in your school system is responsible for (or has authority for) disseminating messages via social media.
- School staff should refer all media contacts to an official spokesperson. Usually, this is the superintendent of a school, unless another individual has been designated. Alternate spokespersons should be identified in advance.
Emergency alert systems are in place to protect students, inform parents, and communicate that school leaders are on top of a situation. Your emergency alert system is the first mode of communication with parents, so make your message informative, brief, and delivered on time.
Switchvox business phone system can be an integral part of your school’s safety process. Switchvox has the ability to broadcast emergency alerts and messages over a paging system or via the display on desktop phones. Mobility features are also included in Switchvox, which help turn your staff into a mobile task force during any emergency.
Want to know more about how your school can benefit from a Switchvox phone system?
Watch this short, on-demand webcast about utilizing mobile UC features for your phone system:
Or, download our Switchvox for Education guide.