June 21, 2018
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Brewer schools to test emergency call system

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — This is a test, this is only a test.

The Brewer School Department will issue a simulated emergency call at noon Friday to test the school’s new Immediate Response Information System, dubbed the IRIS.

“We’re rolling it out this Friday,” Superintendent Daniel Lee said on Tuesday. “What we’re going to do is send out a test message to see who gets it and who doesn’t.”

The test emergency call or text message will be sent to the parents of all students attending schools in Brewer, and to staff at the five schools.

With “roughly 2,000 students, and 300 employees” who are allowed to list three phone numbers and one for text messages in IRIS, up to 9,200 messages could be sent as part of the test.

“It hits them all at the same time,” Lee said of the listed IRIS contacts. “It makes a record of who is contacted and when they got the message.”

Exactly what the Friday message will say has not been determined yet, but something such as “This is a test of the IRIS emergency response system” is a possibility, Lee said.

Brewer School Committee members approved implementing the IRIS at their May meeting.

Parents specify exactly how they want to be contacted, and the system will make repeated attempts to reach them using land lines, cell phones, text and e-mail alerts.

Any parent who does not get a message on Friday should call school administrators to update contact information.

Lee said people often change cell phone numbers and other contact information without informing the school.

“This year, we’re only using it [the IRIS] for snow days and emergencies,” Lee said.

Eventually, the IRIS also could be used to contact parents if a student skips school, if there is an open house or if an activity bus is running late, he said.

“Parents just have to get used to it first,” Lee said.

The IRIS setup cost Brewer $1,000, and there is a $2-per-user fee. And because Brewer is handling the administration for Dedham School Department, they were rolled into the program at no additional cost. A test of the Dedham IRIS system will take place at a later date, Lee said.

During Monday’s school board meeting, the panel also approved laptop self-insurance for parents who want their middle school students to be allowed to take their laptop computers home at night and on weekends.

“If you want to take your laptop home, you have to pay a $25 insurance policy” premium, Lee said.

If there is a claim, parents also will be responsible for a $150 deductible, he said.



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