Mass notification systems aid in storm alerts

One week into hurricane season, Blackboard Inc. is helping local governments, K-12 schools and college campuses prepare for managing communications during severe storms. To get ready, education and government leaders are using Blackboard's mass notification services, Blackboard Connect and AlertNow™, to send alerts and safety instructions to their communities within minutes, even if areas are evacuated.

Onslow County, North Carolina, home to more than 170,000 residents on the state's Atlantic Coast, has a comprehensive communication plan in place for this year's hurricane season. The county has used the Blackboard Connect platform during dozens of severe weather incidents, including tropical storms and hurricanes, to send critical messages including preparation tips, evacuation alerts, all-clear messages, volunteer updates and recovery updates.

"Constant and consistent updates can help reduce confusion and reassure the community in the event of a hurricane," said Lisa Whitman-Grace, Onslow County's Public Information Officer. "The Blackboard Connect system has been a critical component of our emergency preparedness and response efforts during hurricane season, and throughout the year. We conduct routine tests of the system to make sure residents are prepared to receive urgent information."

As the recent spate of tornadoes and storms across the Southeast demonstrated, severe summer weather is not limited to hurricanes. Blackboard mass notification clients have sent nearly 3 million messages as they deal with the aftermath of tornadoes, with automated weather alerts, all-clear messages, boil-water notices, debris removal notices and relief aid information.

After tornadoes touched down in Alabama's Limestone County School District in April, the district sent several messages using AlertNow, a service of Blackboard Connect, to keep parents and staff informed on how the district was responding to the situation. As families dealt with property loss, schools went without power and water, and buses had limited access to certain regions of the county, but the district was able to project a sense of calm urgency in the wake of the storm.

"Events like this can really test a community – but they can also bring it together," said Barry Carroll, Limestone County Superintendent. "Having Blackboard mass notification tools at our disposal was invaluable in our response to the tornadoes that ripped through our community. Our AlertNow messages reinforced the sense that everyone was in this together – that we are all family."