A new school year is here, and with it comes the inevitable issues and challenges that you face as a school administrator. Student behavior issues, hovering parents, parent-teacher disputes – the list goes on. And, most likely, at some point you will have to get a notification out to a large group of your school’s community, if not everyone in the community.
It may be for something like a snow emergency. It may be for a traffic issue that’s holding up buses. Maybe it's not an emergency, per se, but timely nonetheless.
Regardless of the reason, when you have an emergency, it’s important that you get the message out quickly so you can get your parents, teachers, and students the information they need to make important planning decisions. Does your school have one? If not, it should be a priority consideration to add one to your communications arsenal.
The good news is that in today’s digital age, you have plenty of channels to distribute your message. Facebook. Twitter. Text messages. Email. The good old-fashioned telephone. All of these and more are at your disposal. An effective school emergency notification system that can quickly coordinate your message across all of these platforms. You don’t have time to send out 10 different messages on a variety of platforms. You need a system that can handle that for you, so you only have to create your message once.
Here are six of the most popular emergency notification systems in the education space. If you’re looking for a way to better manage your emergency communications process, take a look at these options and others. You’ll likely find that they make your process more efficient and effective.
Blackboard Connect 5
You’re likely familiar with Blackboard’s suite of digital learning tools. Maybe you even use some of those tools in your school. Blackboard just released its fifth version of Connect, its proprietary notification system. The new version has implemented some design enhancements to make message creation more intuitive, much like crafting an email.
Blackboard Connect comes with a host of features that make it easy to use. It has a one-screen messaging system, so all you have to do is create your message and hit send. It then delivers the message to email, text, and even over the phone as a recording. Blackboard Connect also integrates with Facebook and Twitter.
Connect is reliable too. Blackboard says the system has 99.999% uptime. It has apps available in both the iOS and Android stores so you and your team can send messages from your mobile devices.
Finally, Connect also has tools to make your communications simpler. Templates are available so you can quickly craft attractive messages. You can also tag and segment your list so you can send specific messages to certain groups of people.
One Call Now
One Call Now specializes in mass communication tools for a variety of industries, including education. One Call Now’s Education platform has many of the same features you’ll find in Blackboard Connect, including templates, group segmentation, and social media integration. One Call Now’s platform will also convert your text-to-voice or voice-to-text, much like many of the other platforms.
One Call Now also has two other interesting features. One is a translation service that allows you to translate your message into one of 19 different languages for voice messaging and over 50 different languages for text and social messages. That could be very important in diverse communities.
Another interesting feature is that One Call Now lets you use the voice service for free twice per year for school levy calls. If your district is facing a school levy in the next year, you could use this service to remind community members that their votes and support are needed to keep the school funded.
K12 Alerts was one of the earliest companies to offer emergency notification services to educational institutions. It’s still a popular service among school administrators because the company specifically focuses on the needs of schools.
K12 has many of the common features you’ll find in these systems, including the ability create one message and deliver it across many different platforms. While K12 has an iPhone app, as of this writing, it doesn’t yet have one available for Android.
K12 Alerts also offers automatic attendance notifications. If a child isn’t in school and the absence hasn’t been excused, K12 can automatically send texts, emails, and calls to the child’s parents.
Another cool feature is the anti-bullying tool, which allows kids and parents to anonymously submit bullying complaints to school administrators. This could be a feature that your students, parents, and teachers will all appreciate.
Rapid Responder has many of the same message distribution features that you’ll find on the other platforms, but this system comes with a unique twist. Rapid Responder also ties into the communications systems of first responders in your area so they can respond to emergencies with as much information as possible.
You can use Rapid Responder to communicate with your students, teachers, and parents, but it can also be used to coordinate with first responders. For example, you can upload school maps and images into the Rapid Responder system. You can also upload emergency protocols and evacuation plans.
Then, first responders can pull up that information as they coordinate their services. It turns your school’s safety manual into an electronic file that any responder can access in the event of an emergency. That kind of coordination could have big benefits if there’s an emergency in your building.
Colleges and other higher-learning institutions have used e2Campus for years. It’s recently become popular among through K-12 institutions as well. e2Campus offers a number of notification tools, including distribution through text, social media, email, and voice. It also comes with an automated attendance line for your parents to use.
e2Campus also offers tip lines via email, voice, and text. Parents, students, and other community members can use those lines to report bullying, suspicious behavior, or other important information. During a crisis, you can use the company’s eConference tools to get all the major stakeholders on the phone together.
School Messenger is one of the longest-running school notification systems. On their website they list all of the different types of events in which School Messenger has been used. It’s a comprehensive list that includes everything from extreme weather to criminal activity to student violence to fires and more.
School Messenger is the last of the school emergency notification systems I wanted to highlight. Owned by West Corporation, School Messenger is now merged with SharpSchool, which provides website and content management solutions. The combination allows you to tie-in their notification technology with your website and other areas of your digital communications strategy.
School Messenger has all of the standard notification features you would expect and also has an attendance notification system to let parents know when their students haven’t showed up to school. Additionally, School Messenger offers such things as a lunch balance notification, which tells parents when their child’s lunch balance has gone negative. That can help you reduce losses in your cafeteria, stay solvent, and keep your students' stomachs full.
When you have a crisis, time is of the essence. Use an emergency notification system to quickly get your message out to as many of your community members as possible. These six systems are popular and form a good starting point for your research, but don’t stop comparing options until you find the right service for you.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.