Winter is a chaotic time for many communities. Snow storms strike, schools close, and many institutions must reschedule their events. But organizations have trouble spreading the news before teachers, students, and members trek through the bad weather to find a locked door.
How It Works
The primary purpose of the alerts is to let parents, teachers, and students know about school closings and delays, though the program also works with community and county organizations.
Pamal promotes the alerts on-air, encouraging listeners to sign up online. When listeners visit the station websites, they’re given the options to choose their school or community, and customize the types of alerts they want to receive.
Whenever there is a school closing or a delay, the schools and organizations will notify the radio station. The station inputs the information into an XML document, which is automatically scanned every 15 minutes. Any new information in the XML document gets instantly texted out to all the relevant subscribers.
“Texting lets us put the information in people’s hands before they even seek it out,” said Steve Vittoria, Interactive Media Director for Pamal.
“Usually the first thing the school does is call the radio station. That information goes to the DJs and into our texting program. My wife is actually a public school teacher, and we usually get our texts anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour before the phone rings.”
An Urgent Response System in the Event of an Emergency
The text alerts also provide the community a communications channel in the event of an emergency.
“God forbid, if a school goes into lockdown, parents can be at work and get an alert,” said Vittoria.
“I think it’s mind-boggling that there are still places that don’t use text.” – Steve Vittoria, Pamal Broadcasting
That doesn’t have to be anything catastrophic. Students might be sent home early from a power outage or an air conditioning failure. The important thing is, the instant alerts can keep parents informed no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
“In this day and age, text is how people communicate. Even in our own lives, it’s how you reach out to your own family,” said Vittoria. It’s the way people communicate, in an easy, quick fashion without getting stuck on the phone. I think it’s mind-boggling that there are still places that don’t use text.”
A Revenue Stream & A Sponsor Platform
The Instant Alerts actually bring in revenue for Pamal, as the stations work with sponsors to support the posts. Sponsors get mentions in the promos on-air, and in the text alerts that are broadcast out, when space allows.
“It works for the stations and it works for the sponsors. Most importantly, it works for the community.”
The sponsor alerts give local and small businesses – groups that might not have the resources to launch their own SMS campaigns – a way to reach local citizens on their phones.
“It works for the stations and it works for the sponsors,” said Vittoria. “Most importantly, it works for the community.”
If you live in New York and want to sign up for Instant Alerts, you can visit WSPK’s website here.