Group text thread keeps a scattered team connected

My last blog post demonstrated how easily group texts can lead to miscommunication. But recently, I found some very effective ways to use them.

Recently I helped chaperone my son’s Model U.N. club on its trip to the state conference. Two adults were attempting to keep track of 14 teens scattered all over a bustling university campus at an event with 1,400 attendees. How could we find each other?

I typed each student and chaperone’s cell number into a group text and started a thread. “Please check in on the steps of the student union at noon. — Leslie”

Each person could hit “reply all,” and message the whole group, continuing the thread:
“Our committee is running late. Be there in 10 minutes. – Andrew.”
“Which room is the General Assembly in? — Carina”
“The GA is in Room C-12. – Zane.”
“Proposing a resolution to ban weapons of mass destruction. Need a speaker from the national defense committee to present in support. – Zane”
“I’m on it. Be there soon. – Joey.”
“Don’t forget to bring your pass for tonight’s social. — Josh”

Wow—that was handy! That got me thinking about how this would be useful at work. How about crisis response?

When an incident occurs, usually the team is scattered across the school district, with some at meetings in various schools, some traveling immediately to the incident site, and some remaining at the office. A group text thread set up in advance can be a way to quickly notify everyone simultaneously in a way they will likely pay attention to, and to keep the whole team in the loop as information emerges.

Be sure to run a test to ensure all your numbers work before disaster strikes. At the start of an incident, remind the group to sign each post to clarify who is saying what.

For example:
“Channel 2 is asking about a rumored bomb threat at the high school. What’s happening? – Leslie”
“Calling the principal, and heading there now. – Cindy.”
“Students reported something a student said. Calling a fire drill as a precaution. – Kim”
“Police just arrived. Calling neighboring schools with a heads up. – Kathleen”
“Instigator identified and questioned. Police say threat is not credible. – Cindy”
“Students returning to class. – Kim”
“Working on a letter to parents. Translations needed? – Leslie”
“Spanish & Russian, please. – Kathleen”
“Translation team standing by. – Alex”
“I will brief the Board. – Denice”

No doubt this strategy will also prove useful on our summer vacation. Disneyland, anyone?

One Reply to “Group text thread keeps a scattered team connected”

  1. Group texting is awesome, but make sure you test it with your group before a vital moment. It’s weird because it’s kind of just something that Apple made up and shoe-horned into MMS messages — it’s like back in the early days of the web when every browser just added random features and they didn’t work in all the other browsers. It’s undefined what will happen when most phones receive Apple’s group texts. Usually, all the messages that are part of the group text show up as separate conversation threads, but I’ve read that some phones might just discard the texts. I’ve read that Android 4.2 has support for Apple-style group messaging, but the jury’s still out on whether Apple’s style is the “right” way, technically, so things may change…

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