School district tests emergency communications system | SteamboatToday.com

School district tests emergency communications system

Teresa Ristow

Cully Hartsel heads to class during the first day of school at Strawberry Park Elementary in 2014.

— In an era where school shootings are too often a part of the daily news, getting accurate information to parents in a timely manner is critical for school officials.

On Friday, the Steamboat Springs School District deployed a test of its emergency communication system, pushing out more than 3,500 phone calls and 3,200 emails to parents, guardians and school staff members in a matter of 17 minutes.

The test took place on a day when students were not in class, so most were safely in their parents’ sight, and it was a way to test how effectively the district's communication system works.

"We want to be able to have systems to contact people quickly," said Superintendent Brad Meeks.

District officials used an automated system to send out 3,065 calls to parents, making successful contact with 2,959 numbers. The remaining 106 calls were unsuccessful, meaning they could have been met with a busy signal, ongoing ringing or a disconnected number, among other scenarios.

For staff, 417 calls were sent out and 357 were received. Some of the unanswered calls could have been from contract staff members like coaches who don't have a correct phone number on file with the district.

Recommended Stories For You

Although emails were also sent out as part of the test, Meeks said email addresses are regularly updated by district staff when sending out notifications for other reasons.

Friday was the first test of the emergency system since early 2015, but the system was used to communicate a district issue in January.

When Strawberry Park Elementary staff arrived on campus Tuesday, Jan. 26, they smelled gas, and students were quickly evacuated across the parking lot to Steamboat Springs Middle School.

The district sent parents one notification when students were evacuated at 8:30 a.m. and another when they returned to campus at 9:20 am.

Meeks said the system could be used for power outages, water problems or during inclement weather to get a message to parents quickly.

"There are lots of reasons to use it," he said.

Having a strong emergency communication plan is one of the district's 2016-17 priorities related to its strategic plan.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow