Twitter, which started as a way for friends and family to share quick 140-character messages, has gone mainstream. So much so, I’ve even heard suggestions that school districts consider using it as a means to notify parents and students of emergency situations on campus.
It’s an interesting idea. After all, Twitter is free and can reach hundreds, even thousands of followers in seconds. It can reach people by their smart phones, laptops, or desktop computers.
But it is also notorious for crashing. It can’t reach people with a voice message on their landline or mobile phones. It can’t send someone a fax with your message. It can’t send a report indicating which messages were received. And it can’t automatically translate a message in up to 10 different languages.
Mass notifications systems can do all that and more.
When your message is about an active shooter on your campus, a chemical spill nearby, or some other emergency, you need to know that it will be delivered in the method and language the recipient has selected.
Mass notification systems use a highly reliable, web-based process with stringent security standards and redundant servers to keep them up and running at all times. And while they aren’t free, the costs for these services are minimal.
Every campus should have a mass notification system. During an emergency, accurate and up-to-the-minute information can be critical in helping to prevent injuries and save lives. This isn’t the time to take a chance on a free social media service.
By the way, I have nothing against Twitter. I have my own account–fielsafe–that I use to tweet several times a week. It’s a great way to communicate with a large number of people when your message isn’t about a potentially life-and-death situation.
Patrick Fiel is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.
Follow Patrick Fiel on Twitter.
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