For most schools, an emergency drill is carried out on a regular basis to test emergency response procedures and to ensure that students and staff all understand what to do in the event that an emergency occurs. Different emergency situations can be enacted and prepared for. But what about the communication channel? Is this part of the drill and emergency procedure? Are parents and carers receiving an alert message to advise that the drill is or has taken place, and what it means? Or are you sending a paper communication home in the school bag at the end of the day with advice that a drill has taken place?
Do parents even know how they will be contacted during an emergency?
Why a well defined and understood individual communication channel is so important in an emergency, particularly in the digital age
1. Avoid misinformation
Student perceptions and understanding of a real emergency situation may be far from reality, and simply compound parent fears
The rise of smart phone use amongst students has increased, and with this brings the dangers of misinformation reaching parents, causing potential alarm and unnecessary response from parents. Students may see only part of an event unfold, and as such, their understanding and relay of events can prove to heighten alarm unnecessarily
2. Mitigate panic to avoid overloaded phone lines and packed parking lots
Rumours that once took hours to get around now take seconds.
If emergency services are spotted outside a school, many parents and carers will be notified via the rumour mill within seconds, resulting in unnecessary alarm.
3. Avoid parents hearing from the media
Hearing of a critical incident from the media before the school is certain to anger and concern parents.
With the rise of technology, the media response and reporting of events is also rapid, and not necessarily reassuring for parents or carers of those involved in the event.
4. Control the information that is presented via public broadcast
Public broadcasts may increase the danger for those involved in the emergency.
Use of a tested and reliable communication channel will enable the school to get the right information out to the right people at the right time, and with that provide the necessary information to reduce and control alarm, and to control the emergency situation without escalating it.
What is the best communication channel, and how is this integrated into the emergency drills?
The best communication channel between the school and home when an emergency event takes place, is one that is familiar and known by parents, two-way if needed, and unified in delivery with SMS, email and web based access to the same information. The use of ‘dedicated crisis software’ and apps are potentially useful in relation to notifying home, but schools face challenges with educating and reminding parents about access and usage, and more importantly, the need to maintain parent details in the systems can be a challenge. Rather than the ‘ad on’ an additional system for emergency and crisis management, utilise an existing and working channel that is familiar, simple, tested and reliabl.
For schools using Signmee, the move is simple. Signmee schools and parents have their own personal accounts. Parents are linked to the school, allowing communication sharing. Any changes to contact details are handled at the parents end, and therefore the school can rely on the channel being available and up-to-date and open.
The Signmee drill
When an emergency drill is carried out at the school, send a Signmee emergency alert to every parent in the school, advising that the school is undertaking a drill. Detail the actions being taken and any further advice on communication/emergency management they should be aware of for future reference.
Inform parents that in the event of an emergency, the school will use Signmee to inform them, so they should always go to their Signmee account for official information and updates. Ordinarily an SMS notification with be sent advising of an emergency, however SMS can be slow at times of high usage (due to network overload). In such instances, parents will still have access to any emergency communications sent to the parent by signing directly into their Signmee account.
During the drill, monitor how many parents open the alert (from the Signmee dashboard). Include a response box to see if parents have any feedback on the event or process, and a signature panel to ensure that the important information has been read and understood.
In a real life emergency, you may need to advise parents where the students have evacuated to, or where they can be picked up from, and when. Parents can respond directly to the communication advising whether they can make it to the pick up point. Obviously this information cannot be included in the drill (as you do not want parents arriving at a pick-up point), however you can include such headings in the communication and advise that in the event of a real emergency, pick up details will be available from the communication.
Signmee is an inexpensive communications management service available for schools globally. For more details on pricing visit the Signmee website www.signmee.com.
Any school can register and set up and connect to parents. The shift to Signmee can be quite pain free, and can set you on the way to improved everyday processes, and improved emergency management for school and parent.
For more information visit – www.signmee.com