A Winnipeg school division is putting in place a new emergency notification system to help communicate with students and parents.

On October 20, the River East Transcona School Division (RETSD) released its emergency notification system and sent a message to test the new tool.

The RETSD followed up with a news release indicating that over 21,000 parents, guardians, emergency contacts, and over 3,000 division staff members received the test message.

The emergency notification system is to assist the RETSD to communicate promptly with thousands of people involved with the division via text, phone and email if an emergency or time-sensitive information must be sent out. Examples of these instances include when an evacuation, hold-and-secure, lockdown, a division-wide bus cancellation due to inclement weather, and a division-wide closure are issued.

"In 2022, it’s critical that school divisions can connect with parents quickly during an emergency. It’s an expectation they now have, understandably," says Amanda Gaudes, senior communications coordinator.

The test message that recipients received read as followed:

This is a TEST of River East Transcona School Division's emergency notification system. Do not be alarmed; this is not a real emergency. This test is to confirm the system is operational and fix any issues, ensuring it will work properly during an actual emergency. No action is required. You are receiving this as a parent, guardian, staff member, or emergency contact of a student.

"We’re pleased to share that our test was a success," says Mark Bruce, assistant superintendent of human resources. "It gave us insight into how this tool can help us share critical, time-sensitive information, to keep everyone informed in a way that’s more accessible to them."

Despite the test message being a success, some people have reported that there are still some adjustments that should be taken.

"My husband and I received the call, text and email. But neither of our emergency contacts did," says Donna Hurd on the RETSD Facebook post. Many people replied to Hurd agreeing and saying they experienced the same issue.

Lisa Wallace commented on the same post indicating that she only received the phone call when there should also be an email and a text message to follow.

"Out of 5 contacts for my son. Only I received anything," comments Laura Germain. "A family member who isn’t even listed on his contact form also received something which is very odd."

Even though these comments show some complications need to be looked at in the emergency notification system, the overall response to the new tool has been positive.

For more information about RETSD's emergency notification system, visit the division website.