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South Colonie schools to launch new alert system

"That's just too long when you're talking about a child's safety," Platt said.

The South Colonie Safe Schools Committee has spent the better part of a year investigating and listening to proposals from telephone emergency alert service providers to secure the best features and price for the district.

They chose a service called Virtual Ed Link. This service was developed by Viyya Technologies last year in the wake of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University. It is a computer application that provides timely distribution of information at any time, but especially in times of crisis.

Here's how the system works:

Phone numbers parents have supplied to their child's school for their home, mobile phones, PDAs and emergency contacts are stored in a database.

When an emergency message is disseminated from the district office or remote location, the system automatically calls the parent's primary contact number.

If no one answers at that number, the message bounces to a second contact number, to a third and so on until someone is reached.

If no one can be reached, it alerts the district so that the school is aware of the situation and a child is not sent home unattended until a parent, guardian or emergency contact can be notified.

"So it's extremely important that all parents know their child's emergency contact information is up to date for this system to be truly effective," Marcelle said. "Parents should also know that their phone numbers will be kept confidential (not shared with outside companies or agencies) and used exclusively for emergency notifications."

In addition to making emergency announcements, the district can use the telephone alert system to send out information on such things as PTA events, budget votes, student testing reminders and parent-teacher conferences.

The district plans on testing out the new emergency alert system in February. After that, it will work out any bugs and continually refine the system so that it is effective as possible in the event of a real emergency.""

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