Unicoi schools offering automated alert system

Brad Hicks • Jan 10, 2013 at 9:31 PM

ERWIN — Full-time resource officers are now in every county school, but Unicoi County school system officials are not finished putting into place measures to prepare for emergency situations.

The school system recently contracted with White Plains, N.Y.-based K12 Alerts to implement an automated notification service that will be used to quickly alert parents of students and system educators and staff of urgent school-related information.

Director of Schools Denise Brown said the system will be used to notify those who have signed up for the service about situations ranging from schools losing power and early dismissals to building lockdowns and inclement weather dismissals.

“It’s an excellent alert program, not only for inclement weather, but if we have to do a lockdown, any type of emergency situation, as long as parents opt into the system then we can have the information to them within a minute, it doesn’t matter how many numbers we have in there, and we can do it through email, through text, through a phone call,” Brown said.

Brown said the school system’s contract with K12 Alerts is being paid for with a grant the system appropriately received when officials were looking at ways to strengthen security, including the use of the school resource officer.

Parents can opt in to the service, which will send alerts to any Internet-enbaled device, smartphone or computer via voice messaging, email or text. The messages are sent from the schools’ central office, and the system also allows alerts to be translated into multiple languages. Brown said the system is up and running now and, with it, the system has joined East Tennessee State University and other school districts with similar alert systems in place.

“Recent school tragedies underscore the need for a robust communications system in the event of a crisis,” K12 Alerts CEO Gregory Bender said in a release. “K12 Alerts’ patented system provides instant communications in emergency situations to all community stakeholders and their devices.”

Brown said a letter regarding the service was sent to parents prior to Christmas break, but those wishing to opt in may still do so.

“It’s just a great way, a really fast way of communicating anything you need to get out,” she said.

Anyone interested in receiving the messages may register by visiting www.k12alerts.com/portal/unicoicountyschools.

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