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Website, social media offer quickest emergency responses for school families

With an early spring, tornadoes already have wreaked destruction in North Alabama. When severe weather threatens, parents with children in Madison City Schools can access various communication venues to stay up-to-date.

On March 2, Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler reminded parents via email about ways to stay informed. “Some methods of communication have proven to be quicker than others,” Fowler said.

The district’s website (madisoncity.k12.al.us), Facebook (Facebook/Madison City Schools) and Twitter (madisonschools) “are all very reliable and (announcements) appear the minute we post,” Fowler said.

In addition, the Central Office staff contacts the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), which then notifies radio and television stations with school updates. “Our media partners do a wonderful job, but it does take a few minutes to get this information posted,” Fowler said.

“Our main concern is that we want everyone — kids and the parents — to be safe,” Dennis James said. James is the district’s coordinator of safety, security, communications and student services.

NotifyMe, or email distribution, has proven the slowest medium. “We understand there is sometimes a delay with this notification,” Fowler said. “That’s what we are working to resolve.”

James said NotifyMe works well to announce news events but, if time is critical, parents should monitor the website and social media.

Fowler has asked the coordinator of technology to investigate the delay with the service provider for NotifyMe. The NotifyMe software is associated with the provider for the system’s website, James said.

“When a warning is issued, we immediately get kids to a safe area,” James said. “We much prefer for parents to leave the child at school. Parents who drive during a warning are at risk.” This risk continues when school administrators release the child to the parent, who return into the storm.

“James Clemens High School will have two areas for safe rooms to handle the entire student body and faculty,” James said. “The auxiliary gym and auditorium will be tornado-safe areas.”

The James Clemens safe rooms won’t be accessible until the general contractor completes construction and transfers ownership to the school system.

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