The ongoing pandemic has forced schools and districts to change the way they operate. Depending on local guidelines, the new school year will look very different for many teachers and students. Some schools are reopening with precautions in place, others are sticking to virtual learning, and some are mixing in-person and virtual strategies. Whatever a school or district decides to do, there is a need for strong communication to do it successfully—and mass notification systems play an important role.
Administrators need to be able to share new guidelines and expectations with students, staff and parents so everyone can work together to create a positive learning environment that mitigates the spread of the virus. With so many people to share information with and guidelines and recommendations changing on an almost daily basis, schools need tools that help manage communications to keep everyone informed.
That’s why many schools are benefiting from mass notification systems that can deliver critical messages to their communities with the push of a button. Mass notification systems help schools overcome the two biggest challenges when it comes to delivering messages: speed and reach, with speed being how fast an administrator can send out a message, and reach being how likely it is for everyone to receive that message.
With procedures and plans changing so frequently, and the urgency required to alert people in the school community of a positive COVID-19 test result, speed is a critical component when sending messages. On top of that, because schools have been remote since spring, trying to share information that reaches everyone can be a challenge if school administrators aren’t leveraging the right channels to get the message out.
Mass notification systems help schools speed up the time it takes to get a message out in a number of ways.
First, schools can prebuild text and audio messages ahead of time. This could be announcing that someone has tested positive for the virus, or sending out reminders about maintaining social distance and wearing masks within school buildings.
Second, these messages can be assigned to prebuilt groups. Separate groups can be built for parents, teachers, and students, and even for different school buildings within a district. When schools need to send a message, they won’t need to waste time with either of these tasks–they can just select the message and groups and get the messages out.
Messages can also be configured to activate with the single press of a button or via other automated means, like monitored email addresses or RSS feeds. That means in critical situations, schools don’t need to wait for the person with the right permissions to start sending the alert. It can go out as soon as someone needs it to.
To help ensure that message reaches everyone, schools can leverage the multitude of integrations many mass notification systems offer by connecting to different devices. IP phones, IP speakers, desktop computers, mobile devices and more can all be used to deliver text and audio. The more channels a school or district uses, the more likely it is that people will see the message in a timely manner and take appropriate action. By consolidating device management into a single system, administrators spend less time logging into different tools and reduce the chance that someone misses a message. It also helps messaging stay consistent, so there is minimal confusion.
Schools that are moving ahead with some form of in person instruction this fall can also use mass notification systems to help identify potential outbreaks. Notifications can ask recipients to respond to simple questions, like if they are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms. People who respond “yes” can be sent follow up messages asking them to stay home as well as links to relevant health resources. This can help schools avoid closing again by reducing the risk of spreading the disease.
Leveraging mass notification systems during the pandemic also has the added benefit of establishing authoritative channels for school communications. While the pandemic is a pressing concerning for most schools, it does not make them immune to other dangers that may threaten student and teacher safety. Active shooters, severe weather, and other emergencies can all impact the well-being of students and staff.
Using mass notifications regularly will help administrators familiarize themselves with the tools they need to alert people about crisis events and will help community members know where to turn for information.
By connecting different devices and sending communications that reach everyone, schools that implement mass notification systems can have a solid foundation for emergency alerts that is flexible enough to adapt to any situation they may encounter.
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