This week we’ve seen a number of distressing news reports involving thousands of students being evacuated from schools across Australia following a spate of bomb threats. Since last Friday, dozens of schools across the country have been evacuated after receiving similar computerised phone messages warning of a device on school grounds. School SMS Services
The spate of hoax calls appears to be spreading, with calls made to 17 schools this week alone, and a memo from the Victorian Education Department has been released warning that more “highly disruptive and very frustrating” calls could follow in coming days.
According to the latest reports, the hoax calls are the work of a hacking collective known as Evacuation Squad which is also responsible for making similar bomb threats to schools in the UK, France and the US. Viktor Olyavich, a spokesperson for the group claimed responsibility for some attacks yesterday and said "In fact we just hit several Sydney schools today, and we are going to hit various cities in Perth."
While police are continuing to investigate, the overseas location of the perpetrators means it’s likely the calls will continue to occur. Apart from generating concern and uncertainty, the hoax calls are disrupting normal operations at dozens of schools.
Keep Parents Informed
One major factor causing anxiety is the need for schools to communicate lockdown and evacuation alerts to the entire parent body at once as soon as a hoax call is received.
While many schools have emergency management systems in place, some lack the budget or capability to implement such a solution, with the result that parents can often feel neglected or upset should they not be informed of any emergency evacuations or incidents.
An article in the Herald Sun this week, quoted parents at some Victorian school who were upset they learned of recent threatening calls on social media sites before being contacted by their child’s school.
Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh called on schools to be proactive in contacting parents as soon as possible should a bomb threat be made at their school.
“Some parents have had to find out on Facebook. If it was me I wouldn’t want to find out (like that),” she said. “Communication with parents is so important, and the department should modernise and provide all schools with school SMS Services that are able to text message parents, so they can immediately get in touch in any emergency situation.”
How School SMS Services Can Help
According to the same article, fewer than one in four state primary schools in Victoria have the technology to text-message all parents to alert them to potentially critical emergencies.
While calling parents individually is a time-consuming process with no guarantee a parent will be able to answer their mobile at work, sending out bulk text messages to the entire parent or staff body at a school can be accomplished in a matter of minutes.
Utilising text messaging as an emergency broadcasting system is the quickest and most reliable way to inform parents of any natural or man-made incidents that affect the health and well-being of their children attending your school.
When used correctly, SMS can be an important part of a school’s emergency management plan, allowing staff to minimise the risk of any frustration felt by parents, and keeping them in the loop at all times.
While we hope these hoax calls cease as soon as possible, any school wishing to obtain more information about the steps required to add text messaging to their existing emergency management plan is more than welcome to contact us in the meantime.