Education providers should always be mindful of the threats that come from modern life. Whether it’s hackers damaging software systems, unauthorised people trying to gain access to secure areas, naturally occurring incidents such as heavy snowfall, floods or an outbreak of an infection; educators need a clear idea of their communications strategy should the worst-case scenario occur.
How will we adapt to the new circumstances? How can we organise our staff and keep parents and guardians informed? How will we keep students safe?
Adaptability, in particular, is crucial, and there are two main considerations to take into account – the speed of response, and audience reach. This is where mobile communication tools like SMS can form an essential part of your emergency communication strategy.
What are the benefits of using SMS for emergency communications in the education sector?
- 95% of SMS will be opened by your staff/students/carers (Esendex)
- 90% of your staff/students/carers will read an SMS that you send them within 3 minutes (Techjury)
- 96% of UK residents own a mobile phone with SMS support (Statista)
- SMS can be received at any time or place
- No internet connection required
- Two-way chat communications can be deployed where required
- No spam folder. Messages arrive directly in your staff/students’/carers’ inbox
What are the applications of SMS for crisis communication in education?
Emergency messages/institution closure notifications
Students, parents and carers are extremely busy people and getting hold of them when you need to can often be tricky. If a student is sick, has been involved in an accident, or maybe the education institution has had to close, then fast and succinct communications need to be sent to convey this.
SMS does exactly this, while also providing delivery tracking which means you know exactly who has read your message, and when they read it. The disadvantages to leaving a voicemail message in these circumstances are pretty distinct.
SMS can be utilised in one of two ways. Firstly via API, which means it can be integrated into your existing administration system. Or secondly, via standalone online platforms which also offer the benefit of being accessible from any workstation with an internet connection. If your admin system has been compromised, having a secondary mechanism for message delivery is a good backup.
For large scale sends, lists of contacts can be imported and message templates used for speed and clarity. Dynamic fields also make it easy to personalise your messages for every student/carer.
Communications with staff
All of the benefits of SMS for communicating with students and carers can be said of staff too. Quickly notify your workforce of institution closures, security breaches and any other events which may effect service. All this without the risk of messages getting lost in inboxes, and delivered to mobile devices which are checked on average 58 times per day (Source).
SMS is also a great way to arrange cover for teachers who are unable to attend classes because of illness or accident. Quickly compose a message in your SMS tool of choice, and send to any teachers/supply teachers that you think may be available to fill in at short notice.
2-way mobile communications for conversations with students / carers
When education providers send out emergency communications, inevitably there will be questions raised from message recipients – on mass at times. This presents a problem if the education provider only has a limited resource to answer those questions and a finite number of phone lines through which questions can be answered.
SMS presents a solution to this, by providing an instantly accessible conversational platform to ask questions at any time or place. There are also large benefits for the education provider, as multiple conversations can be easily managed at the same time by using templates.
Taking it to the next level with SMS Web Pages
When communications need to be a little more visual and interactive, SMS Landing Pages are a great way to do this. You can include any imagery and branding that you like, and interactive buttons make it easy to link to secondary actions.
This means that for business continuity purposes, SMS Landing Pages can be used as a base to manage your relationship with students/carers/teachers in the context of that emergency.
Links to the latest news feed, querying open times, links to support staff – it can all be accessed through an SMS Landing Page.
How education providers can get started with SMS for emergency communications
We’ve worked with a variety of different education providers to provide better ways of providing emergency communications.