Blackboard Services Help Communities Prepare for Hurricane Season

Blackboard is helping K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and local governments prepare for hurricanes with mass notification services that alert entire communities in just minutes.

While the 2009 hurricane season was quiet—only one named storm reached the U.S. mainland—the National Hurricane Center predicts an “active to extremely active” season for 2010, posing above-normal risk to U.S. and Caribbean coastlines.
Building on success using the AlertNow and Blackboard Connect services to manage previous storm events, Blackboard clients are busy preparing for the new season that begins June 1. Both services have become trusted tools in hurricane-prone regions, helping to keep communities informed throughout the lifecycle of a storm incident, from preparation and evacuation to cleanup and recovery.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools, a K-12 district serving approximately 70,000 students, has integrated Blackboard’s AlertNow service into its crisis communication plan for more than two years. Hurricane Hanna struck the region as the 2008-2009 school year began, and school officials sent a number of messages to families and staff to keep them up to date on school operations.
Likewise, when Hurricane Ike struck La Porte, Texas, in 2008, Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Suggs used the Blackboard Connect service to send more than 227,000 messages to residents. During the course of Ike, La Porte sent messages to urge evacuation in the face of the storm; to set curfews and deploy personnel and volunteers in the storm’s wake; and to manage cleanup and recovery in the weeks that followed.
“The Blackboard Connect system was invaluable to La Porte in the 2008 season,” Suggs said in a statement. “When Ike threatened, we didn’t have to worry about the technology or budget when it came to sending messages and notifying our citizens. Every time, Blackboard Connect delivered. And when the storm had passed, the feedback we got from the community was overwhelmingly positive.”
Blackboard mass notification products offer:

  • A software-as-a-service model enables users to record and send messages from any location, whether a hardened alert operations center or an evacuation post miles from the affected zone.
  • Server and telecom facilities that provide the speed, capacity and redundancy communities need to send tens of thousands of messages quickly and reliably.
  • Multichannel delivery options, including voice, email, SMS, and new Facebook and Twitter alerts that increase the likelihood  parents, students, and constituents will receive notifications, even if some networks are inaccessible in the wake of a storm.
  • No per-message pricing plans that might cause users to think twice before sending vital information.

“When they have critical information to communicate, leaders shouldn’t have to wonder if their mass notification service will work reliably and quickly, or if they can afford to send a critical alert,” Ed Miller, president of Blackboard Connect, said in a statement. “Even when storms have knocked the power out, our redundant systems help school and community leaders reach families across multiple communications channels. It’s a point of pride for us that Blackboard Connect mass notification solutions are ready when our clients need them most.”

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