Two N.J. School Districs Implement New Alert System

Honeywell has announced that two New Jersey school districts - Harding Township in Morris County and Spring Lake Heights Boro in Monmouth County - have selected Honeywell Instant Alert for Schools to improve communication with parents and guardians. The Web-based notification service will replace phone trees and auto-dialer systems, and allows the districts to deliver both emergency and routine messages to families within minutes via phone, cell phone, pager, e-mail and PDA.

"Our goal is to more efficiently communicate during emergencies," said Linda Martensen, superintendent of Spring Lake Heights Boro, which serves more than 390 K-8 students. "However, we also want to proactively communicate with parents about non-emergency situations like bus delays and cancelled athletic practices. Instant Alert will enable us to do both in a more timely and consistent way."

To use Instant Alert, designated representatives at each school district initiate a message through a secure Web site or by phone. And that message is instantly broadcast to all the appropriate contact points. Parents can specify how they prefer to be reached - e.g., cell phone for emergencies, e-mail for all other communication - and update their information online or at a school.

"We've used auto-dial systems, but because they dial sequentially, it could take up to an hour to deliver a message," said Mary Jane Canose, business administrator for Harding Township, which serves nearly 350 K-8 students.

"We looked to the marketplace to find a more efficient solution and chose Honeywell because it offered the most comprehensive and cost-effective service."

Icy or snowy conditions caused at least a half-dozen school delays and cancellations last year, Canose said. Harding Township plans to use the service to quickly alert parents about weather-related changes in schedules, as well as to notify parents about upcoming events and news postings available on the district's Web site.

Instant Alert also provides reporting features that give administrators like Canose and Martensen peace of mind that their messages are reaching parents.

Within minutes of initiating an alert, administrators can generate reports showing who was contacted and by what method, as well as reports that indicate who is authorized to pick up each student in case of a school emergency.

In addition, administrators can use the service to notify parents about absenteeism or remind them about special events. The districts can develop an unlimited number of subgroups - including sports teams, clubs, bus routes, committees and parent organizations - and send them customized messages.

"Honeywell has served the education market for more than 50 years, providing solutions that improve safety, security, comfort and efficiency," said Laura Schultz, vice president of Global Marketing for Honeywell Building Solutions. "By offering a communication service like Instant Alert, we're building on that commitment and helping schools remain focused on their students."