Automated SMS system used to alert Fife parents about emergency school closures

One call from head teacher initiates text messages to all registered users

One call from head teacher initiates text messages to all registered users

Fife Council is keeping parents informed of school closures via a mobile phone-based alert system.

The Scottish council has used the project as a pilot and is considering extending the service to other areas where citizens could benefit from timely communication, such as library book returns and council house repairs.

Almost 1,500 people have registered online for the text service and during the past six months there have been five occasions when schools were forced to close. The system, from supplier TextAnywhere, is based on SMS, voice recognition technology and council databases. It has issued more than 2,200 text alerts to parents so far.

The council began the project to give parents early warning of school closures and prevent them making unnecessary journeys in hazardous weather conditions.

The text alert service is triggered when a head teacher rings a dedicated number at the council, which is picked up by an automated machine. Voice recognition software, which sits on a Windows server, is programmed to recognise the school name from a database of listed schools.

The application then alerts TextAnywhere, which sends text messages to parents who have registered for the service.

The council, which developed the voice recognition application itself, said it has received positive feedback and support from the public about the project.

Fife councillor Drew Edward said it was vital for the council to invest in new technology in order to give residents a wider choice in accessing information about local services. "Mobile phones are now common and the popularity of texting is rising," he said.

"The simplicity, immediacy and value of the service has led us to extend the use of text alerts, using SMS to notify parents of all unexpected school closures, not just due to bad weather. We are currently considering other services, including alerts for housing repairs, overdue library books, school supply teachers and truancy support for parents."

Summary

  • SMS alert systems warns parents of unplanned school closures
  • System combines SMS and voice recognition technology with council databases
  • Project may be extended to other council services

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