Emergency Alert System for Schools

On 16 December 2014, 9 terrorists attacked on the Army Public School (APS) in a Pakistani city of Peshawar. They entered the school and opened fire on school staff and children, killing 145 people (including 14 staff personnel) and injuring at least 130 all schoolchildren ranging between eight and eighteen years of age. The nature and preparation of the attack was very similar to that of the Beslan school hostage crisis that occurred in Russian Federation in 2004. Similarly, there are a number of school shooting incidents in the United States in past years.

School teachers and administrators not only play an important role of educating the students but in the case of an emergency it becomes their responsibility to protect the students. The terrorist attack is not the only situation of taking care of the students but severe weather, fire, power outage, earthquake or other crisis scenarios can happen any time. In such situations, the primary responsibility of the school administrators, is to inform parents via calls, emails and texts. But in panic situations like mentioned above, it becomes almost impossible to inform all the parents immediately.

This is where comes the vital role of an Emergency Alert System for Schools which informs all the parents about an emergency with just click of a button. Important thing will be to have contact information particularly mobile number of the parents of all the students. Ideally, there should be two points of contact, father and mother, in case one is not reachable. A pre-configured emergency campaign will then always be ready to launch in any emergency scenario.

However, preparing an emergency campaign requires extreme care because any emergency call coming from child's school causes panic for the parents. So there are some guidelines that should be followed while creating an emergency alert message.

1. All Students are safe

While creating an emergency alert message inform parents about the safety of the students. A message saying "All students are safe" will ensure that parents will are not panic. However, if it is not the case, it is then the responsibility of the emergency personnel to personally inform the parents that their children is harmed. Always inform parents ahead of time.

2. From where to pickup your child?

Let the parents know where they can meet/pickup the children or let them know that schoolchildren are coming home through buses. Inform parents about any specific steps they should take and when they can expect their child to be home. This is also important because during emergency situations, parents usually drive directly to the school.

3. Keep the message short

Keep only important information in the message. A short message (around 30 seconds) is more likely to be completely listened by the parents. If message is longer, then chances are there that parents might rush to the school to pickup their children.

These guidelines might help administrators to manage emergency situations well. By sending emergency alert immediately, you give yourself the chance of reaching parents before any other inaccurate information reach them through electronic or social media.