Sentinel Hotline Stories: How could a hotline work for you?
Travel company, Sunset Beach Travel, has experienced a problem: the social unrest in Spain has worsened and there are riots and demonstrations in the major airport cities. The Foreign Office has yet to comment. Luckily, they have distributed their hotline numbers along with the travel documents that people are given when they make their bookings.
As social media is full of dramatic scenes of streets full of tear gas and Molotov cocktails in Madrid, people in the tourist towns of Benidorm and Calpe aren’t sure what to do. Travel insurance companies are being inundated and flights are being cancelled.
Sunset Beach Travel have 2 lines set up: one for those already in Spain and those who have yet to travel. The first priority are those already in Spain. They are told to stay in their resorts, and those who are in Madrid where the rioting is the worst, to stay indoors. This line has voicemails enabled so that Sunset Beach Travel can respond to those who feel that they are in an unsafe situation.
Those in the UK waiting to travel are asked via their hotline to wait for further instruction from the Foreign Office, but are assured that if they cancel their holidays they will get a full refund.
After 24 hours, the Foreign Office decides to issue a statement saying that all travel plans to Spain should be cancelled and those in Spain should return home as quickly and safely as they can. Both hotlines are updated with this message. The UK number is also updated to give further instruction on how to get a refund, along with updates from major insurance companies who are also offering help.
The Spanish number is updated to say that because the airports are starting to reopen (apart from Madrid), travellers should get the next flights home. Extra ferries to the UK are also being run to help people get home.
After 2 days of riots, Madrid airport is open again. Both phone lines are updated, along with Home Office advice to avoid travel to Spain unless strictly necessary.
Flastoncury is a week-long music festival that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. Being a remote site in a rural area, access is limited and visitors are likely to run out of charge for their phones for hours or even days at a time.
Due to the unsanitary toilets, there has been an outbreak of dysentery on day 1. The largely millennial crowd have been tweeting about this and families of those attending are very worried, but the lack of consistent 4G and phone reception are making people at the festival hard to get hold of.
As the number of people sick rise into the hundreds, the hotline is updated with a PR-team-approved message to those worried at home. A second, PIN protected hotline is set up to coordinate with the various emergency services and transport teams: from the local hospital who needs to prepare beds, to the police who need to send in some extra officers to support the security team in case there’s a crush if people panic and try to all leave at once, to the coach companies who need to help with moving people to a safer part of the festival site.
On day 2, there are rumours spreading like wildfire on Twitter that someone has died from dysentery. The public hotline is updated to quell this rumour and to give the actual number of festival goers who are recovering in hospital. The private number is being used to update the emergency services on a new pick-up point that has now been established for anyone who falls ill.
By day 3, there have been no new cases of dysentery and all festival goers are near safe toilets. The public hotline is updated to reassure people that the outbreak is over and that the festival will not be cancelled..
Secondary Academy is a large school of around 2,000 pupils. It is in an inner-city area, with a diverse pupil body. They use a mass SMS system, which costs 17p per text, and then have Sentinel Hotline for incidents that require continuous updates.
One pupil comes from a family going through a volatile divorce. She lives with her mother, and has a restraining order against her father who is known to be violent and unstable. However, her father knows which school she goes to and has turned up drunk and belligerent at 3pm, 15 minutes before pupils are released for the day.
As the father is violent, the school has alerted all staff in the main block to lockdown their classrooms and not let pupils out yet. A text has been sent to parents to warn them that their children will be late coming home as there has been an incident, the school’s main block is currently on lockdown and to call the hotline for further updates. The same message is put into the hotline and embedded in the website, so that anyone who visits the school website will see the message.
While the school is waiting for police to arrive, the children have spotted the girl’s uncles loitering at the other main buildings – the sixth form college, which is slightly off-campus. The school makes the decision to lockdown the whole school, and alerts all teachers in the every building now to keep children inside. All pupils will now be late home. The hotline is updated to reflect this, and the school bus companies are also able to see this alert. The head teacher’s PA can update this as the senior leadership team is busy facilitating the lockdown.
After 10 minutes, a parent has called reception in tears because there are tweets about a gunman in the school. She is reassured, and the PA updates the hotline to dispel this rumour.
The police arrive – the PA updates the hotline to reassure parents that the trespassers are being dealt with by law enforcement.
At 3:45, the Head gives the message that it’s safe for the pupils to leave. Again, the hotline is updated to alert parents that the situation is over, no one has been hurt and their children will be home soon.
Foxward University is a prestigious institution with campuses spread across the small city. There are a large number of international students and summer camps for secondary school children during the summer break.
Due to the very old buildings full of wooden fixtures, a fire has broken out in one of the libraries during exam week. The building is quickly evacuated, and the emergency services are called straight away.
There are 10 hotlines set up in total: one for internal staff and students and one for parents and the public, in five different languages. The internal, PIN protected line has voicemail enabled.
The internal hotlines are immediately updated, warning pupils to leave campus straight away because the fire is spreading throughout the southern campus library and heading towards the Humanities faculty. All other campuses are unaffected, but should expect libraries to be busier with pupils from the south campus that have been displaced. The message is embedded in the website in just a few clicks, making sure the website is displaying these updates too.
The external numbers are updated to reassure that there have been no injuries, that the southern campus has been successfully evacuated and that all other campuses are safe.
After an hour, a voicemail from a student in the north campus says that her friend, a wheelchair-bound south campus student who was studying in the Humanities faculty earlier, is not responding to her texts.
The campus security team are alerted, and with the fire service they find and bring the disabled student to safety. One of the comms team calls the concerned student back to let her know that her friend is safe.
After 3 hours, the fire has taken down the server room and phone lines. The comms team can still update the hotline remotely from their laptops, and update all lines advising that there are currently no phones and that the university intranet is down.
After 8 hours, the library and Humanities faculty are completely destroyed. The hotlines are updated to let students know that humanities exams are being postponed for at least a week. The external lines again reassure the public that all students are safe, but any Humanities students will be experiencing disruption.
The next day, servers are recovered and the hotlines let students and staff know that they can access their portal and emails again. An update is put out on internal lines, letting students know that revised exam timetables are available on the student portal.
The public line is updated to say that students who live on the south campus are being relocated to other halls, and that summer camps in the first 2 weeks of summer are being cancelled in order to allow the university to focus resources on helping the displaced students. This way worried parents can be reassured without breaking any data privacy policies by giving information about specific students.
The Fitzray Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel in central London. They have hotlines set up in advance, in a selection of different languages, which is printed on a card that guests are given when they check in to the hotel.
The owner of the Fitzray is also a celebrity socialite who is known for her fur coats. Animal rights groups are angered at her recent red carpet appearance where she wore head to toe mink, and are staging a protest outside the Fitzroy.
The hotlines are updated, warning guests that there is a picket line of protestors outside the building, and that they don’t need to worry as they can still exit the building through the rear. Guests who are out are advised to stay out and are offered afternoon tea for free at their sister hotel in Mayfair.
The police are called in order to restore order. This goes viral on social media with the #policehatebunnies hashtag suddenly trending. Within a few hours, the crowd grows from around 50 protestors to nearly 200.
The hotlines are updated, warning guests that the protest is continuing into the evening. Neighbouring hotels also know the hotline number, and are keeping their staff updated to anticipate some disruption.
One guest leaves a voicemail: he has seen protestors stacking red water balloons down a side street. The hotel staff relay the message to the security team, who find that the balloons are full of red paint. The protestors are arrested.
Another voicemail is from a woman on her way to London – she is asking if it’s true that the hotel is closed and has not been able to get through to reception (the phone has been ringing off the hook). The comms team call her back and assure her that the hotel is open, but if she’d rather stay at the sister hotel then they can offer a generous discount.
By nightfall, the protestors have moved on and the hotline is updated to assure guests that the disruption is now over.
Catflick Airport is one of the capital city’s, and the country’s, major airports. It has been hit with a cyber attack that is making it difficult for air traffic control to manage landings and take-offs, and all the display boards are scrambled. Staff are being swamped with angry and frightened passengers.
Luckily, the hotline had been prepared and included in the reservation documents. The number is shared on social media and is also on posters around the airport.
Straight away the hotline is updated to announce that there has been a cyber attack and that everyone is safe in the airport in order to quash any rumours about terrorism which are already starting to appear on Twitter.
There is a hotline for each terminal that staff use to update each other. While email, radio and phone lines are down, the hotline is updated with arrivals and departures that are still able to go ahead. These hotlines are PIN protected so that staff can focus on operations rather than reassuring the public.
As the downtime continues, flights are becoming delayed and cancelled. Some arrivals are starting to be diverted to other cities and airports, but the display boards are still not working. The public hotlines are updated to reflect this so that people know which flights are cancelled.
Soon, the voicemails start piling up. Most are from disgruntled passengers wanting to know how much longer they need to wait, but some are from elderly passengers who have been standing for hours because all the seats in Catflick’s waiting areas are taken. The airport customer service team first sort through the voicemails and prioritise them: passengers who are elderly, disabled or travelling with small children are responded to first and are taken to the VIP lounge which still has some seats.
After 5 hours, a message comes from the hackers warning that there will be repercussions for not paying the ransom. The boards come back on, but the displayed information is wrong: the hackers are sending everyone to the wrong departure gates in order to cause chaos. The hotlines are immediately updated advising people that the display boards have been hacked and are wrong, while all the private terminal hotlines are warned that crowds of people may be heading their way.
After 8 hours, the malware has been removed and the hackers no longer have control of the display boards. Comms are back online, and flights can resume. The hotline is updated to reassure people that the boards can now be trusted and that they are to wait for further instruction.
The coastal constituency of Devwall is rural and prone to flooding. Devwall County Council has set up hotlines on cards that are posted through residents’ front doors. There are many elderly people in Devwall, and apart from local Facebook groups, it is not a community that uses social media or online resources as a source of information, so residents need a simple phone number to call. However, the website ticker is embedded in the Devwall County Council website so that people can also see the updates online. Alongside the incident hotline, there are also hotlines for discreetly reporting issues that affect this community, such as antisocial behaviour, child abuse and elder abuse.
A storm has hit Devwall, causing flooding. The council was aware that a storm was coming, so has been promoting the hotline via their social media and leaflets posted through residents’ doors. As the flooding starts, the hotline is used to warn residents of the streets that need to be evacuated and give advice, such as moving as many possessions as possible upstairs and putting down sandbags, to everyone else.
As the flooding spreads much faster than expected, the hotline is updated to warn residents that even more of Devwall needs to be evacuated.
Emergency services have access to the hotline, so they are aware of which streets are closed and where people will need the most help.
A voicemail is left by a 90 year old man who sounds very confused and upset. When the incident team call him back, he says that he can’t get out because his kitchen is flooded. The incident team get his address and pass it on to the emergency services, who head to his house to rescue him.
As the evacuations are underway, a falling tree takes down some phone lines, leaving several streets without landlines. Many elderly people live in this area, and panicked family members are leaving voicemails on the hotline saying that they can’t get hold of their elderly relatives that live on the affected streets. The hotline is updated to reassure people that phone lines in that area are down and emergency services are checking on residents on those streets.
The next day, the hotline is updated to say that there are no casualties, but that X, Y and Z street are still flooded. Some roads are blocked by debris and fallen trees: the hotline is updated to warn people not to drive that way.