Emergency contact plan – does it really work?

In the event of an emergency (I.e. earthquake, tsunami warning, bushfire, lockdown) how does your school advise parents/carers of the situation, and advise how they can collect their child(ren)?

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Multiple approaches, multiple details to update

Does your emergency contact plan rely on phone lists from the school administration system (student management system), phone trees, broadcasts via SMS and email mailing lists, school website and social media broadcasts, transfers through middleman or others? Are you satisfied that the communication channels will work in an emergency, and that the contact details are up to date?

Whilst some commentators suggest that school officials should use multiple approaches to notify parents including emails and voice calls, this does little to provide a consistent and effective channel to all parents and carers, and is plagued by the issue of out of date phone numbers and email addresses.

How can we ensure that we have up-to-date contact details?

How then can we adequately reach all parents using a single unified approach to emergency management? The answer lies in a unified approach to communication management as a whole, which can then be leveraged to address emergency management.

Until now there have been limited options for effectively unifying communications between school and home. Schools have been forced to use a range of systems and processes to connect with parents, including email, broadcast and social tools for announcements, and the age-old paper form for collecting response and signatures.

The unified approach using Signmee network

Now with the arrival of Signmee communication services (www.signmee.com), a unified channel is readily available and easily accessible to all schools across the globe.  Schools can create a Signmee account and invite parents to connect and share communications, opening up a very powerful two way communication channel for school and home; and importantly, a reliable and tested means of accessing parents in an emergency situation.

Signmee for everyday communications and emergency communications

Signmee is a communications network designed for schools and the parent community to connect and share information. With Signmee, schools can broadcast everyday news and events, collect consent and parent responses with online web based forms, and collect payments using the payment facility. Parents are notified via SMS when a communication has arrived in their Signmee inbox.  Because Signmee is a fully web based network, Schools are able to monitor ‘in real time’ who has opened a communication, who has responded, and what the response is.

So how does Signmee work in an emergency (for schools with Signmee accounts)?

  • From a Smart Phone on wireless/3G or any device with internet connectivity, the Principal or designated emergency communications officer can log in to Signmee, rapidly create an emergency announcement by filling in an emergency update notification (from template), and distribute it to the relevant parents/carers (a group or whole school)
  • Parents receive an SMS notification advising of an emergency, and can access the details via Smart Phone or any internet device.  Parents sign in to their personal Signmee account to view the details of the incident/emergency
  • Schools may have a response form attached to the announcement, allowing parents to update the school of their own situation, or to provide and assist with information the school requires.  Parents can respond directly in Signmee, which will be available to the school immediately
  • Schools also have the option of publishing an announcement to the school website or facebook page or portal advising parents to access their Signmee account for emergency update information.

Why Signmee?

Emergency situations don’t come up very often, and when they do, it makes sense to use a well-tested and familiar communication channel, rather than an ‘ad on’ or ‘emergency only’ channel or process. For schools who have adopted Signmee to manage communications, nothing is left to chance.  The school has reliable control over communication dissemination and receipt.

A Signmee school can be confident they have tested and proven knowledge of the following:

  • Who is actively connected to the school Signmee account, and for which students (parent/carer names)
  • How long it takes for the average parent/carer to receive and open a school communication using Signmee
  • Whether any parents have access issues, and how they get around these issues

A school with Signmee connections does not have issues with maintaining and updating phone numbers/email addresses within the system, as this is controlled by the parent with the connected account.

When a public broadcast is not the answer

Whilst the use of multiple communication channels can help to get information out to parents, it is can prove to be counterproductive, and at times dangerous.  Schools may need to control the information that is presented to the media and others, to protect individuals from harm, and to maintain anonymity of those involved.

Signmee gives schools direct contact to all parents and carers through the Signmee network.  Schools can include response forms to collect information from parents, providing a two-way channel.  This channel may be of significant importance during a natural disaster, where parents are unable to reach the school (or get through via phone) to advise of their own personal circumstances.  Messages in Signmee can remain personal between the school and parent, and retrieved at any time from a web enabled device.  All teachers with access to the school Signmee account can monitor parent responses to the situation, and send follow up messages and alerts as the situation requires.

For more information on Signmee, vist www.signmee.com or phone 0488994436 for enquiries


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