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How Summer Camps, Schools, and Recreation Programs Can Keep in Touch with Parents in an Emergency

January 5th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Risk Management, Technology

Emergency planning has always been a staple in the diet of the summer camp director, youth recreation director, principal, etc.  When parents put their children in our care, it becomes our responsibility to think of all the disasters that can occur so we have multiple plans in place.  The American Camp Association provides workshops and articles on Emergency Response Drills for Camps and they help camp directors with Sample Crisis Communications Talking Points. Learn more about crisis communication from the ACA with this Crisis Communications Overview.

Many camps even hire a consultant to come in a review their emergency plan.  Daniel Gelineau with Camp and School Consulting is a leading provider and highest quality source for all areas of risk management training and preparation for schools, camps, youth service organizations and recreation programs.

All the planning is necessary to ensure camper safety.  The next most important feature is how to reach the families in the event of an emergency.  There is software on the market that can help summer camps and youth programs communicate with parents and staff in an emergency.


MySchoolAlerts – free to school and summer camps

Alerts.com created MySchoolAlerts as a way to make their technology available to schools. with support from American Income Life and i-Safe.org.  While their web site states that it is only for schools, I confirmed that it is also open to summer camps.  They stated that you can have four types of users such as Students, Teachers, Parents and Staff.  They support email, text message (SMS), voice call, Instant Message (IM), fax, home phone number, office phone number, and a desktop alerts application. For group alerts they currently support email, text message (SMS) and voice calls. You can manually add members via a text file, add html to your web site for them to join, or send them a link in email.  Did I mention that it is free.

  • The camp is in control of what/when messages are sent
  • The user is in control of how/when to receive the message
  • Send Emergency messages such as evacuations, closures – emergency messages are delivered to ALL the enabled delivery methods a user selected.
  • Regular Staff or Parent reminders – the MySchoolAlerts allows you to select which audience you want to reach.

Blackboard Connect

Blackboard Connect offers a variety of services depending on the size and mission of your organization. Via computer or phone you can quickly inform your constituents at multiple contact points, including cell phones, home phones, business phones, PDAs/pagers, e-mail accounts, TTY/TDD devices for the hearing impaired, and networked digital signage. Results of the transmission to each recipient are delivered back upon call completion. The Connect-ED service can be integrated with most administrative database systems including most custom systems.  This system appears to be oriented to sending voice mails.  It was not clear if they also send SMS/text messages.

WARN Emergency Alert

W.A.R.N. claims to have the most affordable rapid public notification platform available today, allowing even small communities the ability to implement a full hosted and redundant public notification system for just pennies per population or household.  Because they are serving large communities and organizations, this service was more expensive than the others described here.  It is the system used at our U.C. Berkeley Campus.

Parent REACH

ParentREACH gives you the power to deliver messages to thousands in a matter of minutes, through the communication modes of: Fax, E-Mail, Voice, and SMS Text Message. Part of a larger and long standing communications company, Amfax, they have very reasonable pricing plans, and were easy to reach by phone.  Send messages immediately or schedule future delivery. You can reate personalized messages in 8 languages and they have templates for predefined scenarios. You can also access ParentREACH from any web browser or touch-tone phone.

ParentREACH Chart



Important Considerations When Choosing an Emergency Messaging Service for Summer Camp

  • Reliability of message delivery
  • Speed, Capacity, Efficiency
  • Will you be notified if and how people were reached?
  • How easy it is to use?
  • If you do not have access to a computer, how will you get your message out?
  • Are the fees fixed or based on the number of messages you send out?
  • How do the fees work when you may only use the services in the summer or if you only need the services in the event of an emergency?  Ideally, may never use their service.
  • Where are they located? Do they have redundancy? Will their services work if they are hit by a natural disaster or other emergency?
  • If your camps change over every week or so, how hard is it to upload or change out data? You don’t want to tell all you Session 1 parents about an evacuation during Session 3.

What services are you using and how did you come to select them?

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  • Jennifer,

    Many thanks for featuring MySchoolAlerts on your blog and we welcome any camp, schools and groups to benefit from our technology. What's cool is that users can also add a series of related alerts such as identifying the cheapest airfare to go to camp, the weather at destination, local hotels for accompanying parents, and more.

    For camp directors, have them reach us at TheCampDirector@alerts.com so we'll know they are a lead coming from you. Looking forward to getting you updated with the many readers that have taken you up on testing our platform.

    Pascal Stolz
    CEO and Co-Founder
    Alerts.com

  • Mary

    I think this is a great program and a great idea, but after sending a kid to summer camp and being a nervous wreck.. I just gave her a Tracfone. I know most people don't want to give their kids cellphones in the summer, but it was just so wonderful. It was good for me while she was away becuase she was able to call me whenever she felt scared or homesick. I got her a Nokia which cost like 10 dollars and she could play all those games on it like Tetris and Sudoku. Plus Tracfone was able to give me an unbelievable deal. I bought her this double minutes feature which gave her 120 minutes for under twenty dollars. I highly suggest worried parents checking it out! Saved a lot of anxiety on my part.