Welcome to FlashAlert Newswire - Seattle
FlashAlert® collects emergency information, news releases and news conference announcements from Western Washington schools and other organizations, providing it to the news media via a continuously updated web site and e-mails. It also automatically places this information into the web sites of participating stations and newspapers and can send it directly to the public.
• Emergency Communications:
In emergencies, you go to a web page where you can view the real-time status of other organizations. You input your organization's user name, password and message and get a confirmation message back.
Information is distributed to the news media in three ways.
1) Your information posts into a page for the media (FlashAlertSeattle.net) as soon as it is received. The media can monitor the page, which automatically refreshes every 5 minutes. When the browser detects new information during a reload, it puts an alert up on the screen, even if the page is minimized.
2) New or changed information is e-mailed to newsrooms at the addresses they request every 15 minutes on snow days and immediately on other days.
3) Every 5 minutes, the list is pushed into news media web sites and in some cases, TV "crawls" or "tickers." The information automatically appears on their web pages, where the public can view it. Click here for example of TV station web use.
At 7 p.m., the system deletes the information and subscribers may begin placing information regarding the next day, for use in 10 and 11 p.m. television newscasts. Postings before 7 p.m. can be flagged that they pertain to the next day and are not deleted at 7 p.m.
The public can see your information on TV and radio stations and their websites, as well as on a page for just your org to which you can link. The optional FlashAlert Messenger (see below) allows you to send messages directly to parents, staff, students and others at the same time as the media.
What kind of emergency information is appropriate for FlashAlert?
The network is intended to provide the news media with accurate, time-sensitive information that impacts a large number of people. Airtime is in great demand during emergency situations. The news media will air information they deem appropriate; you will have greater success if you give them only what you really need to communicate. To prevent overloading the media, FlashAlert only carries information that pertains to 100 or more people.
• News Releases:
FlashAlert's second channel sends out non-emergency news releases as individual e-mails every 15 minutes. You choose which cities you wish your releases to be sent to, based on whether it is a local or regional issue. You can upload photos or PDFs or even a sound clip. The media gets hundreds of emails per day; FlashAlert helps them filter this mail and see items from local organizations first. The news releases are available on an archive web page for one month. You also can save a release as a draft, and even schedule it for future delivery.
FlashAlert distributes to all media - radio, TV and daily and weekly newspapers - in the cities you choose. Since there is no cost to the media, all are included. View the media list here.
Customization and Your Organization's Own Page
In addition, you can add into your account the e-mail addresses of Business Partners - people whom you would like to receive your emergency message, news release or news conferences (in addition to the news media). And any time an organizations name shows up, it is as a link to the organization's home page, enabling the media to quickly get to their site.
And, organizations have a link to their FlashAlert information. This page brings together each organizations emergency messages, news releases and news conferences. No more need to update your web site manually - just link from your home page. Click here to see an example.
FlashAlert Messenger: News direct to the Public
FlashAlert Messenger is a companion service where the public, including parents, employees, reporters, etc., may self-register up to three email or text message addresses and receive your information at the same time as the news media. When the public registers, they trigger test messages to make sure they've entered addresses correctly and that messages get past their spam filters. Each summer, an opt-in message is sent to keep the database current. Text message addresses are discouraged due to the delays caused by cell companies and them truncating messages.
Even faster is the free iPhone/Android app FlashAlert Messenger, which allows the public to receive "push notifications" of your emergency messages - much faster and more reliable than text messages. They also can view regional emergency items and news releases in the system. Click for the Android version; iOS (iPhone) version.
New this year is the ability to add sub-organizations so your constituents can subscribe to get org-specific news. A school district, for example, could make each school a sub-org. In fact, FlashAlert allows you to add a third sub-org level, so you could send news about a school's PTO or Band Boosters. A police department might set up sub-orgs for their precincts, and be able to target news releases to people subscribed to that precinct, as well as the news media if you choose.
There is no charge to the public for the Messenger service; the annual cost to an organization is 20¢ per subscriber for the first 1,000, then 10¢ per subscriber thereafter until 10K, when the cost drops to 5 cents each thereafter (charge does not apply to schools receiving FlashAlert services through PSESD or ESD 113). Click to see the FlashAlert.net page to which you can refer your publics to register. Click here for sample text you can use to explain to the public how to sign up for FlashAlert Messenger.
Please note that we are discouraging registering text messages, in favor of push notifications through the FlashAlert Messenger app mentioned above. Text messages are a major problem, being subject to delay or deletion by the cell companies, as well as some companies cutting off text messages at 10 characters. If someone simply must get a text message, they can enter their address manually (i.e. email@example.com for AT&T).
Speed and Reliability
E-mail is the delivery method of choice for news editors, since the info can be forwarded and copy/pasted. They are faster than faxes, more accurate than phone calls and can be copy/pasted. FlashAlert is redundant in that stations can see information as it is posted (station web pages update automatically every 5 minutes with an alert function) or by the e-mails. The FlashAlert web sites are tested every 20 minutes by an independent monitoring company.
While FlashAlert resides on a group of servers with multiple power supplies, the Internet is an unregulated medium and performance cannot be guaranteed. Also, subscribers should take into account the reliability of their own Internet service provider (ISP) through which they access the network, as well as their home/office power supply. For redundancy, it is advisable to be able to call a colleague in another part of town, who uses a different ISP, to be your backup.
FlashAlert does not track email open rates. Open rates are obtained by hiding a one-pixel graphic in the email. When the email is opened, the email reader calls back to the sender for the graphic. The graphic is not sent, but the sender logs the address of the receiver. FlashAlert doesn't do this for two reasons. First, many (if not most) email readers offer the option to not load graphics. FlashAlert's email readers do not. Therefore, any number or percentage that could be obtained would be wildly inaccurate, on the low side. Secondly, we have ethical issues with this sneaky approach. In the past, you could request a return receipt. Fair enough; the receiver has the option of approving the confirmation. But collecting this information in stealth mode crosses our ethics boundary.
In the event of a system outage, clients may go to FlashAlertBackup.net, hosted at a different ISP, to launch emergency messages to key media in your region.
FlashAlert has managed emergency communications for the school districts in the Portland-Salem-Vancouver area for 36 years and in Puget Sound for a decade. The nearly unlimited capacity of the Internet has created the opportunity to bring in other regions and organizations. Users benefit from easy access to the news media, while the news media benefit from having an information clearinghouse. The automated nature of the network keeps costs low.
Here's who is using FlashAlert in the Puget Sound area: Participant list
Click on the link and choose your region to see annual fees for unlimited use (September-August billing cycle, pro-rated starting January 1). View fee schedule (plus sales tax).
You may renew your subscription by check or by using a credit card through PayPal below. You do not need a PayPal account, you can make a one-time payment. On the first PayPal page where you see $0, enter the amount shown on your invoice.
Take FlashAlert for a test drive. Click here for a "dummy" zone.
To register for FlashAlert, start here.
This page is for your use only, and should not be distributed to the public. The public may use any of the news media web sites. that carry the info, or refer them to FlashAlert.net
Do you want a shortcut to the login page? Bookmark FALogin.net
Former SchoolReport/PSECS clients may contact Melissa Laramie at Puget Sound ESD for assistance, 425.917.7607 firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about FlashAlert, call Craig at 360.834.1953, or Craig@FlashAlert.net