Automated Phone System FAQs for Parents

The message started playing and then stopped. Why?

The automated system utilizes the industry’s most Advanced Answering Machine Detection (AAMD) software. The system starts the broadcast immediately upon telephone pickup; simultaneously, it is listening for interruptions. If the system is not interrupted by noise or someone speaking within the first 3.5 seconds, the message is delivered. If the system detects a greeting longer than a few seconds, the system treats this as an outgoing message from an answering machine and will stop playing, wait for silence (usually after the beep), and then start the message over so that it can be recorded in its entirety.

While the software is 98% accurate in distinguishing live vs. machine, errors can occur if the person repeatedly says “hello” or answers in a noisy environment (i.e. traffic, children playing, loud music or television, dog barking, etc.). Generally in these situations, the system stops playing the message. It is waiting for silence to start the message over. In a noisy environment, where silence is unattainable, call recipients can press the number 1 on their telephone and the message will play from the beginning without interruption.


What if the line is busy or there is no answer?

The automated system will make up to four attempts (depending on account settings) to reach each number, with three minutes in between each call. If the message is not delivered by the fourth attempt, the school is notified of such in the delivery report.


Why is my answering machine recording only half of the message?

If the answering machine greeting is sporadic with various periods of silence or does not start playing within 3 seconds, the system may read this as a live person and begin playing the message before the machine has started recording. This will result in a recording of silence (if the automated message finishes playing before the machine begins recording) or of just the last portion of the automated message. Parents can simply re-record their outgoing message so that there are no pauses.

Alternately, if the answering machine is set to record for a specific amount of time (e.g., 30 seconds) and the automated system message runs longer than that, this will also result in message cut-off. The recommended solution is to have parents set their machines to record for a longer period.

For answering machines or voicemail systems where it is necessary to enter a mailbox number, the automated system is unable to leave a message.


My caller ID showed that the school had called, but there was no voicemail. Why?

The system will ring a line up to six times. If your answering machine is set to pick up on seven or more rings, the message may not be delivered to your machine. Therefore, we encourage you to set your machine to six rings or fewer. Another possibility is that there is a break or a substantial silence in your machine’s outgoing message, causing the automated system message to play prior to the machine actually recording. Please make sure that the greeting is seamless to facilitate successful message delivery.


Why doesn’t the school’s name and/or phone number appear on the caller ID?

The automated system passes the caller ID information to the local telephone carriers, but it is up to those carriers to pass it along to their customers. Furthermore, different local telephone companies process caller ID information differently. Some provide the name associated with the number, while others do not. For example, a telephone company may require an individual to subscribe to “Advanced Caller ID” in order to receive the school name along with the phone number. Unfortunately, we have no control over this feature.


Will the system call phone numbers with extensions?

The automated system is capable of dialing extensions, but we cannot guarantee the success of such a call. First of all, strict rules must be followed when entering the number in the automated system.  It must be formatted as ten digits, a space, a lower case x, then the extension number. Secondly, if the phone system on the recipient’s end requires menu navigation (such as “Press 1 if you know your party’s extension”) the automated system will not be able to deliver the call.


I have a telemarketer screening device or service. How will that affect the call?

Devices such as TeleZapper and services from the phone company such as Privacy Manager or Privacy Director are specifically designed to prevent “unknown” calls from progressing to the customer’s phone. Unless the district has chosen otherwise, emergency calls launched through the automated system display 411-000-0000 on the caller ID, which is a non-standard, “unknown” number, triggering most privacy manager services. The automated system’s software is designed to distinguish between a live answer and an answering machine, not to navigate though privacy management services. Parents can contact their phone company and request that 411-000-000 be added to their list of allowed callers.