While the entire Mid-Ohio Valley and much of the U.S. were battling snow, ice and sub-freezing temperatures this week, WTAP’s “Closings and Delays” system was facing its own challenges.
The system permits authorized organizations to log on to the internet or call in by phone, to post their own closings and delays. It can also post more detailed information under the title of “Special Information.”
We had more than 60 different closings and delays on the system on Wednesday, Jan 28. The day before, we had about 50.
We’ve had the system for about five years but I don’t recall it ever being accessed more than it was this week. And it worked flawlessly.
We even had about a half-dozen new organizations join the ranks of those who can use the system to let the public know of changes in schedule.
We had many calls from churches and other groups wanting to post their closings. We had to tell several of them that we have certain guidelines to determine which organization we DO and DO NOT inlude in our system.
Those guidelines are:
- It must be an educational facility with more than just a handful of students (who could otherwise be telephoned to become informed of closings or delays), or
- It must be a large employer such as a hospital or a factory
- The only pure retail establishment that we permit to use the system is Grand Central Mall. That’s because the mall hires hundreds of people under one roof and lots of people visit there each day.
Other than these types of groups, we usually offer the following advice to folks who want to spread the word about a closing or delay:
1. Put the closing information on your answering machine, so that when people call in, they can find out what’s going on. Be specific. Don’t just say “today;” say the day of the week. And be sure to remove that message when you go back to regular hours! Then WTAP encourages people to "call before you go."
2. Put the info on your website
3. If you’re a small organization, work the phones. We encourage churches to put their phone network to use to spread the word.
Why don’t we post every closing or cancellation?
First, we’d have to make sure that every caller is legitimate. Our Closing & Delay system has a number of safeguards built-in, to help prevent bogus cancellations. But those are set up in advance of weather emergencies.
Second, if we permitted every church and every organization to post a delay or cancellation, when we go to run those on TV, the list would be so incredibly long that those affecting the largest numbers of people would get lost in the hundreds of other announcements. We run all of our closings and delays on TV and on wtap.com. And while the internet has infinite space and is search-able, TV has neither.
WTAP considers spreading the news about closings, cancellations and delays part of its mission to serve the people of the Mid-Ohio Valley. Our computer system does an amazing job. We thank all of the 100+ organizations and schools who use it, for relying on us to get the word out quickly, dependably, and efficiently.
We thank everyone who does NOT call the WTAP newsroom asking about closings, because we do NOT give that information out over the phone, in an effort to discourage what used to be (at times) an avalanche of calls.And we thank everyone who watches WTAP or logs on to www.wtap.com to check out teose and other announcements.