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District Readiness for Natural Disasters: 6 Tips for Preparedness

Whether your district is bracing for a storm or preparing for a future natural disaster, follow these tips to ensure Let’s Talk is ready.

Severe weather or a natural disaster can strike at any time and often without notice. Let’s Talk is a powerful tool to help your district communicate proactively with families, staff, students, and community members while providing a central location for answering questions and collecting feedback. 

Whether you’re in the midst of a natural disaster or preparing for the future, we recommend the following steps to ensure Let’s Talk and your team is ready when a crisis strikes: 

1. Identify your Crisis Response Team. 

Every crisis involving a natural disaster will need leadership from the district’s superintendent and lead communicator. While the rest of the Crisis Response Team will look different at every district, we recommend involving the following departments to support you: 

  • Human resources
  • Information technology
  • Operations
  • Public safety and local emergency management
  • Transportation
  • School building leadership, including principals 

Be sure that each member of the team is already set up and trained within Let’s Talk so they can collaborate on critical dialogues as needed. It’s also important for your Crisis Response Team to have back-up team members in case someone is out of the office or unavailable during a natural disaster.

2. Provide clear and accurate information regularly. 

Strong, clear, and consistent communications are vital to keeping families, staff, students, and community members updated during a natural disaster. 

As the situation evolves or resolves, be sure to communicate regular updates to your district community using the channels they prefer to receive information. These channels may include: 

  • District and school websites
  • Email
  • Text messaging
  • Phone calls
  • Social media 
  • Local TV, radio, and newspapers 

In each outbound communication, be clear about how your community can submit their questions and concerns using Let’s Talk.

3. Establish a hotline that connects with Let’s Talk. 

Your district’s families will have many questions and concerns during a natural disaster — and it’s possible your district could lose power or phone service during this time. 

Use Let’s Talk as a command center to handle incoming phone calls and ensure calls are documented in a single location. Let’s Talk phone lines can be utilized for receiving live phone calls, capturing voicemails, or even intaking text messages from your community. All can be set up with messaging and auto-replies from your team to let customers know their help request has been received.

If you need help setting up a dedicated hotline in Let’s Talk, contact your Customer Success Manager. 

4. Create a topic in Let’s Talk. 

The best way to begin collecting questions and information from families, staff, students, and community members is through Let’s Talk. Set up a Let’s Talk topic dedicated to the crisis or natural disaster. Next, update the button to reflect a different color so it stands out from other topics. 

You can use the form message and auto-responses on the topic to set appropriate expectations for response times and a list of community resources available to the community.

If you need support adding a topic, contact your Customer Success Manager.

5. Update Let’s Talk Assistant with relevant questions and answers. 

If your district uses Let’s Talk Assistant, we recommend creating a list of questions and answers that can easily be added during a natural disaster. You can also update them to incorporate keywords relevant to the disaster. 

Common questions to your chatbot may include: 

  • Are schools closed?
  • Are schools open? 
  • Are employees reporting to work? 
  • Are after-school activities canceled?
  • Where can I find a shelter?   
  • How do I prepare for a power outage

6. Create a dedicated web page on your district website for severe weather and natural disasters. 

Make it easy for families, staff, students, and community members to find information about severe weather or a natural disaster by creating a dedicated web page to post updates and important resources. You can also embed a Let’s Talk landing page for collecting questions and concerns from stakeholders on the website. 

Our K12 Insight team is here to help your district navigate any storm — whether you’re facing a natural disaster or another crisis. As always, if you have any questions or need help implementing these ideas in your district, reach out to your Customer Success Manager or submit your request through our Let’s Talk form

ellie grace
By Ellie Grace
Ellie Grace is a senior client success manager at K12 Insight. She has a background in teaching, academic support, and professional development, and a Master of Education degree in Transformational Leadership and Teaching from Johns Hopkins University.
Originally published September 26, 2022 Last updated January 2, 2024