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In a school lockdown, fast, easy-to-use and reliable communications are essential

 

Schools are where children go to learn. That’s their primary function, but the logistics involved with so many people in one location – most of them children – means that imparting knowledge is just one of the challenges faced by school management teams. Student safety is, of course, paramount. Whether it’s a fire in one of the buildings or a chemical leak in a lab, there are procedures in place to keep the kids safe.

When the safety of children is an issue while at school, the natural response of any parent or caregiver is to use whatever means necessary to find out if they’re OK. This is especially true of lockdowns, when access in and out of the school has been stopped. Not knowing what’s happening is very stressful, so if a lockdown occurs, schools need a fast, easy-to-use and reliable communications solution that lets everyone know what’s happening.

On March 15, 2019, Christchurch schools would face that very crisis as a mass shooting erupted at two of the city’s mosques. With the gunman on the loose – and indeed, doubt as to how many gunmen there might be – Christchurch schools went into immediate lockdown and activated their emergency communications procedures.

For those currently using the School-links solution, the Emergency Alert System went into action. It’s a tool for Senior Leadership Teams that can be used remotely when access to their current systems are not available. The system does three main things:

  • Notifies parents and caregivers by app or text message of what’s happening
  • Makes sure everyone gets those crucial messages
  • Keeps schools in control and focusing on student safety

The Emergency Alert System is reliable and easy to use. Its designated emergency channel allows schools to quickly communicate with parents and caregivers during a lockdown. Currently, over 500 New Zealand schools and Early Childhood Centres use the Emergency Alert system when they need to get a message through to parents urgently and reliably.

The Emergency Alert System meant that, during the March 15 crisis, parents and caregivers knew their children were safe and protected, that the school was in lockdown, and that when the all-clear was given, they would be notified immediately.

Following the all-clear after the shootings, Hagley Community College Director Jenni Holden commented on what it had meant for the College to have the School-links Emergency Alert System on board. “We’re incredibly grateful that we have access to the School-links Emergency app,” she said. “It was crucial in communicating with our school community yesterday quickly and efficiently, with several messages sent through the app. I know it’s an absolute tragedy and no-one wants to think about the possibilities of these emergency events happening but knowing that we have your support and great systems to back us up makes it a lot easier. Thanks everyone – you made a difference and helped allay a lot of parents’ fears yesterday.”

With the Emergency Alert System, a school isn’t relying on power or on-site computer access. It means that a mass message can be sent rather than trying to get in touch with everyone individually, and the school can tell at a glance if that message didn’t get through to anyone, so they can try and contact them another way.

As Jenni said, we don’t like to think about emergencies and disasters happening, but the fact is that they do. For the safety of students and staff, emergency procedures are critical, and that includes a reliable, innovative, and easy-to-use communications solution.

To find out more about how we can help your school to improve its emergency communications procedures, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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