You don’t need us to tell you that managing school communication in a crisis is as stressful as it gets. Whether it’s an extreme weather event or a school lockdown, parents and carers need to know what is going on and they need to know quickly. Having a communication plan in place ensures families receive clear and accurate communication so everyone can stay calm and safe.
The majority of schools will have a communication protocol in place should they need it but, if your Emergency Response Plan hasn’t been checked for a while, it’s worth revisiting it to update and ensure your school is making the most of digital channels to reach parents. This week on School Stream, we share the importance of “one source of truth” in an emergency, the pitfalls of information vacuums and some real-life examples from School Stream schools to illustrate why it’s so important to get this right.
With a decade of experience in school communication solutions, we can help your school. See why schools around Australia love School Stream.
If you’re always ready, you never have to get ready.
Preparedness is a key pillar in most state schools around the country. For example, Queensland schools are required to develop, review and update their Emergency Response Plan and test it, and the documentation for each state and territory also emphasises the importance of being prepared.
Reviewing your Emergency Response Plan presents a good opportunity for schools to decide how best to mobilise and inform their school community. We know from working with schools over the past decade that having a dedicated, reliable, and in real-time point of contact alleviates panic and contributes to swift action in a crisis.
“It (School Stream) was priceless when we had the bushfires around here. We had to send out an evacuation notice and it was one hour from sending the alert, to everyone being out (of the Centre).”
Taree & District Preschool
One source of truth is critical in a crisis.
In the event of an emergency, we all know how imperative it is to avoid “he said-she said” scenarios. Ensuring parents know where to go and get information “straight from the horse’s mouth” means the information is accurate and delivered in a timely way to everyone. If communication is patchy, schools can end up with an “information vacuum”.
The perils of an information vacuum
An information vacuum occurs when poor communication creates a ‘gap’ in knowledge. When faced with a partial understanding of an incident, people tend to create, imagine or reflect on prior experience to help form an understanding of what we think the missing information might be. Cue, the rumour mill. All this adds a layer of confusion that you don’t need when you’re trying to calmly manage a crisis. An information vacuum is like a black hole or vortex, sucking in misinformation and hearsay that leads to errors, confusion and, worst of all chaos, in an emergency. It doesn’t take much to imagine how this hinders an effective response in a school emergency situation.
The pitfalls of relying on a suite of communication products.
Sometimes when we speak to schools about their communication practices prior to School Stream, we are amazed at how much work communication is for their administration team.
‘(Before School Stream) We used “everyday technology”: Facebook, a website, and a weekly newsletter that was sent out to parents and uploaded on to the school website. If a message was urgent, I used to make an announcement on local radio and hope parents were listening. If an excursion was late back, we put a chalkboard at the front gate. I didn’t have a mechanism to give specific information about everyday school activities that I was sure would capture all parents in an instant.’ NSW School Principal
There is just no need for this kind of double-up. A school communication app like School Stream takes all the faff and guesswork out of school communication. Our experience has shown that when a communication solution is easy to use, parents will flock to download it and the subsequent good response rate means the administration team use it almost exclusively to keep parents in the loop.
Pro tip: Any school communication platform worth its salt must also give staff access to data so they can see who is looking at what post. This is important because it allows you to see what works and reach out to parents who haven’t engaged for a while.
Having a dedicated communication channel means that when you need to contact your community in a heartbeat, parents are immediately alerted. If schools are relying on a combination of paper, social media, word of mouth or a cumbersome app, you simply won’t reach your community when you need to.
What are the key things to look for in a school communication system?
We know School Stream isn’t the only school communication system in town, but a decade of laser-focus in the area of school comms does mean we know what works (and what doesn’t) in an emergency. To be ‘emergency ready’, your school communication system should be able to:
Reach your entire school community in minutes with a single click.
Be able to publish from any device on the go.
Customise messages to reach impacted individuals for response efficiency.
Not one of us ever wants to be in a situation where we need to enact an Emergency Response Plan. However, making a considered decision about how to communicate with families in an emergency is a vital part of being prepared. And it always feels good to be prepared.
Would you like to learn more about how we can support schools? Let’s talk.