The Pros and Cons of Mass Alert Communication Systems for Schools

Vol. 14 No. 9

heads eletter Vol.14 No.9 communication

When trouble strikes your school, you need to inform your parents in a timely effort about what’s occurring. By managing emergency communications, you’re controlling the panic and misinformation that can spread like a virus through your community. How you disperse this information is a critical element in containing the situation. The advent of mass-communication systems—text messages, emails, and automated phone calls—can be both effective and damaging in certain scenarios. Here is a look at the pros and cons of most communication systems used in sync with risk management protocols.

The Advantages of Mass-Communication Tools

  • Parents are “trained” to look at your established communication channels first for any and all emergency alerts.
  • Alert systems are a direct link to parents, rather than secondhand contact methods like social media platforms or email that might bury school-related messages beneath more mundane updates.
  • Using a specific mass communication tool—rather than relying on phone chains or social media outlets—ensures that all parents receive the correct message the first time. Human error encourages the creation of a real-life “telephone game,” in which the original message has been garbled beyond all description by the time the last person hears it.
  • Such tools also help eliminate user error. “Once and done” information input can dramatically cut down on typos that impede the spread of information in stressful situations.
  • The privacy of parents’ personal information can be protected by using many mass communication alert tools, as a school user can use the app to contact everyone without seeing the actual information used to send it (i.e., the email address or the phone number).

The Disadvantages of Mass Communication Tools

  • Messages distributed by mass-communication systems are often short—too short to add much nuance, reassurance, or additional information. If this concern is not appropriately anticipated (maybe with a “see website for more information” line), then this could lead to the panicked phone calls the school was trying to avoid in the first place with such a system.
  • Such tools cost money—which is yet another line item on a budget that’s stretched to the max—and time, both to learn by its primary users and to help the community’s adoption of the tool.
  • They require maintenance—though any master list of contact information for parents will require a similar amount of updating and cleaning of information.
  • Unauthorized personnel who gain access to the mass-communication tool may be able to send out messages to the entire school community more quickly than other communication systems.

If you’re looking into mass-communication software over the summer, consider both the pros and the cons of using this system before you invest. Take the time to talk to other users, see their stories, and evaluate how the tool might be received by your unique school community.

Additional ISM resources
The Source for Risk Managers Vol. 4 No. 5 Communicating Emergencies
The Source for School Heads Vol. 13 No. 8 4 Ways to Reach Your Parents

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members
I&P Vol. 40 No. 2 Consolidate and Coordinate Your Parent Communications

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