Communicating Effectively Through Emergency Messages

This article was originally published in NYSIR News Fall 2010

School district mass notification systems are indispensable when you need to keep the entire school community informed if an emergency occurs. Messages that address various scenarios should be created in advance and stored for future use. Being prepared saves time when every minute counts and you need to communicate immediately.

Staff can work together to write scripts for clear, effective communication for the following vehicles:

  • the district website
  • the public address system
  • e-mails, text messages, and telephone calls
  • letters to parents/guardians

Scripts to Prepare
Compose sample messages for the following situations, including an indication of where specific information is to be included in the script (for example, in the case of a delayed opening, leave spaces to insert what time each school will begin classes; for an early dismissal, where and what time parents/guardians should pick up their children). By preparing insertion points for details, you insure that no critical information is left out when the final script is quickly written for dissemination. Refer to your emergency management plan for other possible scenarios.

  • Delayed Opening
  • Closed Building
  • Bus Accident
  • Lockdowns and Lockouts
  • Bomb Threats
  • Weather Issues
  • Early Dismissal
  • Relocation
  • Power Failure
  • Road Closure

Content to Include
Emergency messages should include the following:

  1. Introduction – Who is sending the message (and from what school and/or department). “This is John Smith, South Middle School Dean of Students.”
  2. The Reason for the Call – including the date, time, and duration of the emergency.  This is important since electronic messages can be delayed before delivery.  “The Meridian School District will close at noon today, Friday, January 5th, because of pending weather conditions. It is expected that schools will reopen at regular starting times Monday, January 8th.  List any impact on after school or weekend activities. Explain how to respond. “Parents may pick up their children at usual school exit points beginning at noon.”