Our house has been hit with the bug that is going around school. We decided to keep the boys home to give them a chance to recover. They are not super sick, so they are pretty active. My husband and I were joking about bringing them into school over breakfast this morning. My phone was upstairs in my room while we were downstairs having breakfast. When I walked back upstairs about 15 minutes after the late bell rang and saw two texts from my Mommy friends that have kids in the same class as my youngest. I clicked on them and the texts wouldn’t download. I don’t ever have to download a text, so I was frustrated by the whole process. I jumped on Facebook to see if one of my friends had tried to message me there. My immediate concern was that there was a school function going on that I had forgotten about and missing it was going to result in some kind of emotional scarring for my little one. Totally kidding, but not really. As my thought finishes, Facebook loads and that is the moment that will forever be seared in my memory.
A status update asking if anyone knows why our school is on lockdown.
My friend had been in the carpool line to drop off her children when several squad cars came rushing in, squeezed in between all the cars lined up and headed to the back of the school where the mobile classrooms are set up. Teachers directing traffic immediately stopped letting kids get out of their cars and told parents to evacuate the school. The school was placed on a lockdown.
A man stole a car and attempted to elude officers by dumping the car and running through our school property during drop off.
Luckily, our police officers caught the guy who stole the car quickly. The entire process took 10 minutes. Ten minutes and done. A bit scary, but pretty awesome that they caught the guy. End of the story right? Nope.
Posts immediately were flying all over Facebook. Parents were a mess. The nearby school was also in lockdown. Some parents called the school, I called the police station. Within 45 minutes our Facebook community knew what had happened. A man stole a car and was trying to elude police when he decided to dump the car and run at my children’s school during morning drop off.
So why am I sharing this story? Because organizations need to understand that social media rules where the eyeballs are. You can get the most updated information about any situation that relates to you faster on social media than any other traditional source of communication.
(times are not exact-darn time stamps…)
9:15 – School goes into lockdown
9:25 – Lockdown is over
10:40 – Schoolwide call goes out to announce that there was a lockdown and all is clear
10:45 – School Twitter Handle tweets out announcement
Let’s round off and say the entire process took 1 ½ hours from the start of the situation to the last notification went out.
So how should a school handle this conversation?
In my grown up world I deal with brand social media communication during live events. When a situation arises we refer to our emergency plan, confirm with key decision makers and then send our our communication. Our school was not the only one in lockdown today in the country OR our little county. That in itself is pretty disturbing. What I am looking for from schools is a quicker response time and to start taking charge of the social media experience. With any brand, your goal is to be the first to release information. If you are not, you need to quickly take control of the situation by acknowledging the situation and giving the best update you can. Even if that is, “we can not release any information at the time”. When you are dealing with children, I feel that the communication is even more emotionally charged and the schools need to be driving the conversation.
In this particular situation, our school was on a yellow lockdown. Code Yellow – A need for a perimeter lock down due to a situation whereby school police or city police notify the school that there is some kind of dangerous situation off campus but close enough to possibly create danger for students. I have witnesses saying that the man in question was actually on school property, but let’s gloss over that fact for now. A code yellow is that the school is not in imminent danger. In this case, someone should be assigned to getting information to the parents as quickly as possible.
I understand that their is a fine line between causing undue concern and under communicating. In my opinion a notice should have gone out by 9:30am by phone, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook that the situation was restored.
In a perfect world this would never happen. Since that is not a reality, schools need to look at how they are communicating and understand that information now travels at light speed. Every person with a smartphone is a reporter. They need to asses their communication strategy and streamline the process. No system is perfect but more immediate communication responses are crucial these days.
What do you think?