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June 2007
Volume 10 / Number 6
Disaster Preparedness

Have You Done Everything Possible to Protect Your Organization?

By Rich Tehrani & Max Schroeder, Disaster Preparedness

The recent heartbreaking events at Virginia Tech emphasize that disaster and tragedy can happen at any time with surprising suddenness. In the aftermath, many journalists and politicians were questioning the judgment of university officials and law enforcement officers. For those of you who have been following this column and the activities of the Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum, you already understand that we have never advocated this approach. Candidly, it serves little purpose other than to detract from people and institutions that were only trying to do their best under very difficult circumstances. To quote an old Native American proverb: "Don't judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins."

A key area of discussion was the communications infrastructure in place at Virginia Tech. Many alternative suggestions were offered by the TV commentators such as sirens, text messaging, automated phone calls (cell and landline), email, fax and other messaging formats. Every type of messaging has distinct advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstances. Emails are great if you have your PC or a Blackberry type device with active communications available. Even brief messages can be more descriptive than siren signaling, for example. Cell phones and text messages are also good choices unless you have a major event that overloads the circuits (i.e., September 11, 2001 in NYC). So what are the best choices? The most obvious suggestion is the catch-all answer displayed on most multiple-choice school exams — All of the above.

One method of implementing a multiple choice solution is to employ a hosted or managed service solution. Software as a Service (SaaS) was part of the DPCF Continuity and Disaster Workshop conducted this past January at the IT Conference an Expo in Ft. Lauderdale. These types of services have the dual benefit of proven performance combined with quick deployment.

As covered in the Raleigh-area News and Observer on March 20th 2007 ( ), Saf-TNet (STN) saw customer inquiries double after it was mentioned in The Wall Street Journal. Although the focus of the article was about parents irritated by the automatic calling systems that schools use to announce everything from grades to cancellations, Saf-T-Net got a boost due to the mention that its system "has built-in safeguards. . . to cut down on message mistakes." This is certainly a valuable feature in disaster situations. STN has its headquarters in Raleigh, NC and regional offices in Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, Ohio and California. STN began operations in 1996 offering small business recovery planning and received a lot of local attention in 2002 when it handled numerous simultaneous outages caused by a major ice storm hitting North Carolina. In 2003, it became one of the first ASP operations to address rapid communications services for schools.

Although STN was one of the earlier companies to address the school communications market and has proven their reliability, they are definitely not alone. U.S. (news - alert) Netcom Corporation (http://www.usnetcomcorp. com) located in Joplin, MO, offers several choices for school systems including customer premise solutions, ASP services and a hybrid of both. The hybrid offers the economy of an in-house system combined with the high volume capabilities that may be required in a true emergency situation.


Additional resources available:— (news - alert) Offers delivery of messages to mobile phones (SMS), email, web pages, RSS, and other communications services for schools, governments, corporations plus sports and special events. is the Omnilert, LLC service designed for colleges, universities, private and vocational schools. With one click you can instantly notify your entire campus community via Mobile Phone (SMS Text Message), Email, Web Site and Personal Portal, Wireless PDA, RSS and Digital Signage. is the specialized service for large organizations charged with managing alerts for their employees, partners, and customers.— (news - alert) With a customer base of 1,000, MessageOne stakes their claim as the leading provider of managed services for disaster recovery, business continuity, and email management. Their AlertFind service provides two-way emergency communication via phone, fax, pager, email, and text messaging.— The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS) is a nonpartisan policy and program resource center located at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Their site includes a lot of valuable information including a guide for emergency preparedness.— National School Safety and Security services is a Cleveland (Ohio)-based, private, independent consulting corporation which is not product-affiliated. They specialize in school security and related school safety consulting for K-12 schools plus law enforcement, and other youth safety providers.

Max Schroeder is a board member of the ECA, media relations committee chairman, and liaison to TMC. He is also the Sr. Vice President of FaxCore, Inc. (news - alert)

Rich Tehrani is the President and Group Editor-in-Chief at TMC and is Conference Chairman of Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.

If your organization has an interest in participating in the TMC/ECA Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum, please contact [email protected] or [email protected].


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