After reading your article “New eMail program helps schools ‘Keep in Touch'” (January 2004), I thought it would be a disservice to your readers, and the author, if all of the facts weren’t presented for a very timely and newsworthy article.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) used our service for a year and a half, and it was during this time when they realized the enormous growth of their eMail subscriber base. This growth told them something that we already knew–that parents not only want but need alternative means of communication from their schools. An Emergency Notification System (ENS) should be a critical part of the communications infrastructure for every school district.

After 9/11, we watched the web hits double not just for FCPS, but for all of the school districts using our service. When a school district has to make the decision to close its schools, whether it is for a weather-related or terrorist-related emergency, the way they communicate with parents has had to change. The television and radio networks are a great source for information, but they cannot be the only source when it comes to relaying critical information about the status of their children’s school.

As part of our mission, we want to ensure that all school districts (small or large) have access to an ENS. School’s Out is a nonprofit organization that offers an ENS service free to both school districts and eMail subscribers. There are no catches here. We do not sell our lists to marketers, and the school district maintains complete control over the eMail notifications. It is the school administrator who enters all the information, via a user name and password, into our secure servers. Parents can choose to have the notification sent to their eMail address or to a wireless device (cell phone, pager, or PDA).

With more than 14 million web hits registered in 2003 and more than 200,000 subscribers, School’s Out has implemented a successful technology that supports a critical link in the emergency preparedness arena. I should know–as a concerned parent I have used this service for years!

–Pamela O’Brien, Director, Business Development, School’s Out, www.schoolsout.com

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