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The calm during the storm: how communication tools can minimise disruption to your school community

August, 2017

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.

Emergency communications checklistDownload the New Zealand school emergency communication check-list.

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, may 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 a contacts list database will allow staff to access contact details immediately, wherever they may be. The easiest way to do this is by having your database accessible online. This way you don’t need to send anyone in to the school to send out a message – you just need access to the internet.

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 an e-mail or text message, rather than relying on website notifications or phone trees, 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 save you from having even more stress during an already disruptive situation in the future. Click here to learn more about Newlands School’s experience during the Wellington 2016 earthquake and flooding and how they were able to “stomp on the rumours” and confusion at the time by using effective communication tools.

Learn more about school emergency procedures and lessons New Zealand schools have learned, in the white paper ‘Kia Kaha! Staying in control and effectively responding to emergencies at school’.

How to use the School-links Emergency Alerts App – iPhone/iPad

July, 2017

The School-links Emergency Alerts App allows schools to quickly and easily contact parents, caregivers, students and staff in an emergency. This video shows you how to use the App.

How to use the School-links Emergency Alerts App – Apple/iPhone/iPad from Andrew Balfour on Vimeo.

This short video created by School-links demonstrates how to use the Emergency Alerts app on your iPhone or iPad.

Use the Emergency Alerts App to send text messages to staff, caregivers and students in minutes. You will then receive real-time delivery reports to enable you to identify parents who may need to be contacted by phone or email.

If you are unable to enter the school building or if the school network has taken a hit, you can use any smart device on the mobile network.

Examples of use include:

  • school closures
  • natural disasters
  • alerting staff and students to a lockdown unobtrusively

Accessing the Emergency Alerts App

  1. Tap the ‘My Schools’ app icon on your iphone or ipad.
  2. Note: the first time you log in you will be asked for your username and password, but from then on you will just need your pin code.
  3. If you are linked to more than one school, you will see all the schools listed.
  4. Choose the appropriate school and select ‘Visit as Master User’ and your previous messages will display, if any.

How to type an alert

  1. Tap the ‘new message’ icon in the top right corner
  2. Type a message up to 160 characters.
  3. Include the school name or a recognised shortcode, preferably at the beginning of the message, so that parents have confidence about the source and can identify which child/school the message concerns.
  4. Note: in a critical emergency situation, you may not have time to review replies. We recommend that if you have characters available then add ‘Do Not Reply’ or similar.
  5. Click ‘Save’ to come back to the message later or click ‘Save and broadcast’ to send the message immediately.

How to send an alert

  1. First, select your target audience. You can select more than one. Tap again to de-select if you make a mistake. Note that you cannot drill down any further e.g. to year level – messages will simply be sent to everyone in this category.
  2. To send, tap ‘Broadcast’. You cannot stop the message after this point. If you do want to edit it before broadcasting, select back to ‘Alerts’ in the top left.
  3. Once you have tapped ‘broadcast’, you will see the message and the status will read ‘queued for broadcast’. After a few moments, if you refresh your screen by dragging it down the message status will say ‘broadcast’.
  4. If you have saved a message previously, it will show up in this list as a draft. You can tap on the message to edit it or broadcast it.

How to access the delivery report

  1. To access a delivery report, log in as previously and tap on the message.
  2. You will see how many were delivered successfully, how many failed and any replies, if you requested a reply. As before you can drag the screen down to refresh.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via our online support forum or free phone number.

 

School-links at MUSAC Conference

May, 2017

MUSAC is a key provider of software-as-a-service solutions to the education sector in New Zealand. As a Ministry of Education accredited provider of school management software, MUSAC provides schools with an extensive suite of applications for the administration of all school types. This includes administration and management of assessments, curriculum, attendance, students, staff, library resources, finances and asset management.

School-links completes the circle between your edge (SMS) and your community, allowing you to send and receive Early Notification texts directly from edge.

In the lead up to the MUSAC conference on 1-2 June 2017 in Christchurch, we are putting the spotlight on the School-links Emergency App.

Schools need to be able to quickly and easily contact caregivers, teachers and students in the event of an emergency. From weather events, to lockdowns or natural disasters, schools have a responsibility to ensure that parents are kept informed of the situation, direct from the horse’s mouth, rather than via news or social media.

We have simplified our pricing model and now have pricing tiers for what type of school you are. This gives you access to our whole communications suite.

If you were just interested in the emergency app, you can get it stand-alone for $49 per month.

Come and talk to us at our stand at the conference and we can give you a demonstration on how it works. We are also involved in the Early Notification presentation on the Thursday afternoon (1st June) with our EN specialist, Keith Mockett. We would love to see you there.

Want to learn more? Enquire now.

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