School emergencies and mass dialing systems

parent reach logoWhere was all this cool stuff when I was in school? The school my kids all attend has signed up for a service called Parent Reach that offers mass broadcast capabilities through its system. Simple, easy, effective.

They’re testing it next week and sent a message reminding us parents that calls from Parent Reach will have a displayed Caller ID of “411-411-411. Slick.

It’s even smart enough to listen so it doesn’t start talking while you’re still talking:

Please be sure to answer the call as you would normally and then be silent and listen. The system needs to hear your response and then hear silence so it knows when to start delivering the message. So, answer as you would normally, but do not continue to say, “Hello, hello, hello. . .” It will NOT begin delivering until it has detected silence.

Heck, I can’t get my kids to stop talking so I can talk, and they’ve got a computer that smart? Impressive. 🙂

More details of how the system works:

In an emergency, a staff member will call the emergency notifications system and record a short message. He/she will then choose one or more pre-stored lists of parents and faculty/staff.

The broadcast begins immediately, and calls every number on each list. If it detects a busy line, it will call again, up to ten times at three minute intervals, to deliver the message when it connects with a live person or recording device.

The school has entered all the phone contact information you have supplied to us; i.e., home number, cell number(s), work number(s) for both moms and dads. Please take this opportunity to let us know if your contact information has changed recently as the system can only be as accurate as the data we have on file.
You will likely receive the message at more than one phone, as we feel it is better to err on the side of caution, especially in the event of a real emergency.

It really is pretty slick, and it does make me wonder what happened when there were emergencies twenty, thirty, fifty years ago? Did we just have more close-knit communities and it wasn’t so critical to get the word out quickly, or did we live in a time where every kid had at least a few friends who could serve as safe harbors in the event of an emergency?

3 comments on “School emergencies and mass dialing systems

  1. It’s really not that great when the phone rings at 4:30 AM to tell you school is cancelled – I’d much rather an email or a phone number I can call on my schedule.

  2. 4:30 AM call is the fault of the faculty generating the alert, not the system (spoken like a true dev right?). I worked on a similar system (geared at local government levels for first responders and volunteers) and indeed they can be made to be pretty slick. Hopefully the system allows you to login and specify phone numbers since your preferred number may change with time. All schools should have this system as the alert can be generated from any device and who knows what kind of situation a school may find itself. Cool.

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