Rethinking Parent Alert System

I broke the Visual-Pager keypad at church yesterday. This device allows workers in our nursery to notify our tech booth operators that they need to display a number on our video projection system. Each parent and child are assigned a number and parents know they are being paged back to the nursery if their number appears on screen.

Being the frugal geek that I am, I’m trying to rethink if there is a free way to replace this system instead of spending another $250 on a new keypad. I’m thinking there should be some way to setup some service so that our nursery workers could call a special phone number and type in the number. Then this number is communicated to the tech booth operators via SMS, IM, or Twitter.

The closest I’ve come up with so far is to setup a special Jott account and link that in with a Twitter account. The nursery worker calls Jott, says they want to contact Twitter, and then speaks the number and name of the parent. This would require the tech booth to be running a Twitter client to see the alerts. Here’s a sample of what I’ve got it doing so far:

I’m thinking there should still be an even easier way to do this, hopefully involving fewer internet services. This solution wouldn’t work if our phone service, internet service, Jott, or Twitter experienced any outages. And, it’s not totally straight forward for our volunteers to use.

Anyone have a simpler idea?

SMS Kids Check-In System

This article on using cell phones as plane tickets got me thinking. Would it be useful to allow parents to somehow use their cell phones to check-in their children to kids programs at church?

Could a parent send an SMS message to the church as they’re arriving to somehow speed up or simplify the process? When they show up at the check-in area, the volunteers or whatever could have preprinted name tags and labels for the kid.

Then that same cell phone could be used as a contact method for the parent in an emergency. If a parent needs to be contacted, why not send a text message to the parent’s cell phone that they registered the child with?

It’d take some work to make it easy, but why not consider it? Doesn’t most everyone carry a cell phone anyway?

What do you think?