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District to unveil crisis call system

School closing from heavy, blowing snow. A bus crash. A school lockdown for an intruder. When emergencies like these occur, parents worried about their children want the facts right away. The River Falls School District's answer: AlertNow.

This new system kicks off with a test call to parents of school children Sept. 16. Assuming all goes well, AlertNow will be the way emergency school district information is given out.

Brief messages will be narrated by Superintendent Tom Westerhaus. They will go to home and cell phone numbers. E-mail is also an option.

"We want whatever message we may have to send to be accurate, helpful and timely," Westerhaus said. "We don't want parents to become numb to them."

AlertNow is handled remotely by an outside company. Local phone numbers have been exported to its data base.

The school district, paying about $6,000 for this system, has no software, hardware or extra phone lines to maintain.

"It's to get information out as quickly as possible to everybody at the same time," said Brian Dado, the district's IT services supervisor. "The idea is to only use this system for emergencies, not for a reminder about a Thursday night choir concert."

Read much more on this story in the Sept. 9 print edition of the River Falls Journal.