Technology connects schools to parents
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911 broadcast articles

Emergency Alert Systems

emergency alert systems This section of our technical library presents articles written about Emergency Alert Systems and Disaster Recovery definitions, terms and related information.

The 911Broadcast emergency notification and alert service can deliver a large number of phone calls using a network of phone systems employing digital phone lines simultaneously. Should a disaster such as a snow storm, wild fire or flood hit your area, 911Broadcast systems can alert your community quickly providing specific instructions if an evacuation is required.

This service is available using our emergency broadcasting systems. If a dangerous chemical spill occurs in your community, you can target specific areas to call. If a severe snow storm hits your area, your community can be notified of school closings or event cancellations.

Technology connects schools to parents


Colton Joint and Rialto unified school districts can reach 15,000 parents in less than 15 minutes after contracting with Connect-Ed Emergency, Attendance and Public Interest Phone Notification Services.

Rialto Unified used the emergency calling system to contact parents within hours of Tuesday's lunchtime brawl at Wilmer Amina Carter High.

"It kind of eliminates the rumor mill,' district spokeswoman Marilyn Cardosi said.

Principal Ray Johnson recorded a message explaining what happened and inviting parents to attend meetings later in the week. The message was translated for Spanish speakers.

"In the past, we have had to take the time to write the letter, translate it in Spanish, get it printed and out to students before they leave school,' Cardosi said.

Wednesday, families at the district's other middle schools and high schools received messages from their principals encouraging everyone to end the year on a positive note.

"It really is, in my estimation, a fantastic communication tool to keep parents in the loop,' Cardosi said.

Colton Joint Unified purchased the technology this school year. Rialto Unified's Board of Education unanimously approved a three-year contract last month.

The technology can be used during emergency lockdowns or to issue an Amber Alert, inform parents that their child missed a class or remind families about school photos.

Foothill Ranch Elementary in Orange County used Connect-Ed when a third-grader who spoke very little English got lost trying to walk home after his first day of school.

"He had no clue where he lived, so he became missing,' Principal Jim Lee said.

Lee sent an emergency notification call describing the boy's appearance and asking parents to help look for him.

"Everyone went out onto the streets to see if they could find this young man,' Lee said.

A parent found him within an hour.

"It was a godsend,' Lee said of the technology.

About 15 percent of California schools use this notification technology, including 60 percent of Orange County schools and half of San Diego schools.

Colton Joint Unified officials wanted a way to improve student attendance and figured that letting parents know about tardies and absences as soon as they happen would motivate kids to get to class. Rialto Unified likely will start using the technology to report absences in mid-January after staff training.

So far Colton Joint Unified has used Connect-Ed to remind parents about exit exam prep classes and student absences.

"It also helps us clean up our records,' said Bob Stranger, assistant superintendent of business services.

The system records any bad phone numbers. The district can use that list to update its records if a family has moved or changed numbers without informing the school.

Stranger wishes the district had the Connect-Ed in April, when an after-hours fire at one of the elementary schools damaged some rooms.

"It would have been nice to be able to communicate the status of the fire with our parents,' Stranger said. "There was a lot of confusion among parents about what to do.

"You simply don't have the staff to make all those phone calls, and when you're dealing with an urgent situation, the phone lines get all tied up,' he said.

Connect-Ed messages can be sent via the Internet, regular phone or cell phone. During a power outage or evacuation, the administration can still connect with parents without an Internet connection or electricity.

Some schools send reminder messages about PTA meetings, book fairs and other school events.

In Colton, principals were encouraged to use that sparingly.

"If you don't, it becomes junk mail, junk messages,' Stranger said. "You don't want these phone calls to be dismissed. Therefore you can't do it very often.'

The cost is $5 per student, but schools can lower that to $3.60 if they work with a local corporate sponsor.

The sponsor gets a tag at the end of outreach messages, such as announcements of PTA meetings. Districts have complete approval of the sponsor and content for the tag, which cannot exceed 15 seconds.

Ninety percent of school districts, including Rialto Unified and Colton Joint Unified, opt for a sponsor.

In the first year, Rialto Unified will spend $112,519 for setup, support and the annual message fee. The district is paying for it through its School Safety and Violence Prevention fund.