I'm going back out and interviewing more people as well as getting in touch with sources from the schools. I'll have more later but the level of concern from parents regarding the phone notification is something we'll be hearing more about as the details of today's event unfolds.
UPDATE: From what I can figure out, most of the complaints stemmed a couple of factors.
• One, the Honeywell message system didn't work for a sizeable amount of parents. This point was acknowledged during the press conference at City Hall.
One message left for parents stated this:
"danbury police and the mayors office"
"regarding Rogers Park danbury police department and the mayor's office"
From several parents I spoke to, the chopped off message left them wondering what the hell was going on, which resulted in them calling either City Hall or the schools looking for information. Now, from what I can gather, this problem was with the automated system from the school system (Honeywell), not the reverse 911 system (City Hall).
Here are a list of complaint that echoed the comments I heard throughout the day:
My daughter was already HOME from DHS by the
time we got our call/email from Honeywell
If my daughter did not have her cell with her, and call me about what was going on,I'd have no way of knowing.
Scarey...caould have been much worse...AND our
much-publicized Alert System....an over paid
anyone who confirms that the alert system is functional must be the only one who got notice or works for the school system... my elementary student child came home to an empty house. when she called me on my cell and said she was home and didnt know why...
The alert i got, my child was with me on are way home......Did not work well at all......Their should be a big concern that this system failed..Is their some one in charge, if their is an emergency? Or some one with a plan? Isnt their a FEMA director in Danbury?
How come they don't do regular tests of the Instant Alert system? I have a kid in HATS and one in Danbury Public school. My son who goes to HATS called us when he was on the bus on his way home, he later told us that in their lunchroom today someone let off a stink bomb. I realize this is not the same as the threat that was called in earlier but still and all. I found out about all the bomb threat from a DHS teacher who was at the store where I work and she was the one who told me that they were evacuating the DHS and they were getting all the kids in the rest of the Danbury schools out early. I was also told that the FBI was involved and they were at the HS. I got the call from the "instant alert" after my son was home from HATS and my daughter was already on her way home...
There is no excuse for honeywell dropping the ball yesterday. My numbers are all updated with them and with the schools. Instant alert did call my cell phone way after the fact (close to 5:00 p.m.) and after my kids were home for a few hours already. This was a serious situation yesterday and Danbury should make everyone aware of what's going on in situations like this. What the hell do we pay taxes for?
Problem No. 1: The city /school system cannot rely soley upon automated systems to notify parents of what is going on. I personally never received ANY notification from the City, I found out by accident. Most parents I've talked with said they found out by word of mouth. Many others received official nofification long after the kids were dismissed or already at home. If this were really a serious situation, there would be a lot of panicing parents with little or conflicting information.
Problem No.2: Lack of communication. Friends of ours spent hours trying to track down their son a KS student. They were told he was taken to the firehouse and rushed there, only to be told he was taken to the War Memorial. Since they live near DHS, they had to beg and plead with the Police (who treated them like liars) to get through road blocks. Once at the War Memorial, the only way they found him was by spotting him in a crowd. There was little to no organization there.
Problem 3: For the size of Danbury, why for the Love of God is there no reliable live news outlet, like a radio or TV station? The Newstimes did a pretty good job updating us periodically, but they're not really in the business of live news. WLAD used to at least TRY to keep up with local news. Now we just get Debbie Hanley reading the News-times to us, interspersed with obnoxious syndicated programing. The Danbury TV news station closed up years ago. This city needs a real, live news outlet that can get reliable information to us in a timely fashion.
In the end, I'm happy that everyone's safe, but I think that City officials and the Board of Ed have a LOT of explaining to do.
Well, there is a Danbury television channel and the person in charge of that system dropped the ball but I'll get into that later.
• This student's account of what happened at DHS also mirrors the accounts I heard last night.
I am a junior at DHS and I was at DHS when this happened. The fire alarm went off at around 9:40am. I thought it was just a routine fire drill, so I didn't bring any of my belongings with me...big mistake, because now I don't have/can't get any of them until school's open again. Anyway, so the whole school was evacuated. Those of us out front of the school were moved up onto Clapboard Ridge where police and fire trucks blocked off the road and made cars turn around. We were in front of the school on Clapboard for close to an hour. Then, we were walked down Clapboard Ridge onto East Gate, where we were told that buses would soon arrive to take us home. Those students who were fortunate enough to have brought their car keys outside got to drive themselves, along with anyone they could squeeze into their car, home. Many students(and teachers who did not have their keys) waited and took buses home. A large amount of kids walked home. I walked from East Gate about one and a half miles to my house because I did not want to wait for a bus, I didn't know my bus number, and teachers permitted us to walk home if it was nearby. There were tons of kids walking on the shoulders of Clapboard Ridge. The situation was fairly chaotic, what with all of us students and teachers walking on Clapboard and not really knowing what was going on and then trying to figure out how to get home. But, it all worked out.
I'm out of school, but my younger brother goes to middle school and my father wasn't home, so I picked up the phone and got an automated message stating that it was a call from the city of Danbury and to press 1 stating that I received the call. But there was no message attached to it.
The second call I received was at 12:39 stating that the middle schools were being closed at 12:30.... I think that the call should have been placed earlier.
For the most part, it must be stressed that although everyone is safe, moments like yesterday are great opportunities to look back at what went wrong and how the system can be improved in the future. Knowing parents, the complaints about the system will be heard loud and clear by the school system and will be addressed.
• Another MAJOR COMPLAINT from many residents stemmed from the fact that the Danbury Public Access channel (DanburyTV, channel 24) was not utilized during the incident. It didn't even occur to me that, during the press conference, that the presser wasn't being televised live.
FACTS ABOUT CHANNEL 24 and YESTERDAY:
1. The city of Danbury has access to channel 24 on Tuesday (the day of the incident), Thursday and Saturday.
2. The person in charge of the public access, Community Services Director Ted Cutsumpas, was present during the entire conference (watching the event in the back of the room) YET didn't seem to think about broadcasting the event as he was watching it. If the person in charge of Community Services was able to stand, sit down, and watch the ENTIRE press conference in the middle for an emergency, why didn't he think about broadcasting the event for the public? It's not like anyone needed to operate the camera since all that was needed was a camera focused on the podium where the mayor and city officials were taking questions.
3. Cutsumpas knows how to operate the camera and system on his own.
4. Throughout the day, DanburyTV text did not update with critical information on yesterday's event.
Yesterday's event exposed some serious problems with a system that we pay for with our tax dollars. Cutsumpas inaction in terms of broadcasting the press conference on Channel 24 (again, Ted sat and watch the ENTIRE press conference) is inexcusable especially when the channel is used to promote things on the mayor's agenda. On a day where channel 24 could be a source of information, the person in charge of the system simply dropped the ball (and could probably care less that he dropped the ball).
Obviously, the Honeywell system needs to be looked at and the complaints from parents need to be addressed.
Got a gripe about yesterday? Leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.