School campuses are often very large with multiple floors and even have multiple buildings on one campus in some districts.
Two-way radios are commonplace in many of our nation’s schools as a tool for administrators, security personnel, and key staff to communicate on security and supervision issues. Not only are they helpful with day-to-day security issues, two-way radios are critical in managing a crisis.
Gaps in School Safety Communications
Today’s New York Times article entitled, “9 Years After 9/11, Public Safety Radio is Still Not Ready,” talks about the progress and lingering challenges of trying to attain interoperability of communications for our public safety forces. The story reminded me that while many schools have come to grips with the fact that a two-way radio is often a helpful tool, many administrators and school staff still are still not equipped to communicate effectively on day-to-day security issues or in a crisis.
In our consulting visits to schools around the nation, we have seen two-way radios used as an integral part of daily security and supervision. We have also been in schools where the radios exist but are not used on a regular basis. And we have been in some schools with too few or no two-way radios at all.
Unfortunately, we often see a hodgepodge mix of two-way radios and/or lower-grade equipment which does not function well in large school facilities. We have even seen some schools where police radios cannot get a signal out due to the structure of the school, which is sometimes resolved by adding a special repeater antennae in the school.
Beefing Up School Security and Crisis Communications Capabilities
We typically recommend schools equip key staff with two-way radios and that they be carried throughout the school day. The minimum staff to equip with two-way communications should include administrators (principals, assistant principals, deans); security personnel and School Resource Officer(s); main office secretary; school custodian; school nurse; physical education teachers taking classes outside; recess staff taking students outside; bus duty staff member(s); and others as appropriate at each school.
In a crisis, seconds make a difference. It is a lot easier and wiser for a physical education teacher to be able to contact the main office via two-way radio to call for an ambulance due to an injury on a school field than it is to send a student running to the office with the message. A custodian with a two-way radio can notify the office to call a lockdown if he/she sees an armed stranger on campus versus having to look for a house phone to make the call.
We have also seen more progressive schools work with their public safety partners to link school communications with safety forces, most often local police. This has ranged from police monitoring school safety radio traffic to having two-way links where a designated school official can directly contact police from their two-way radio.
Each school needs to be evaluated as to its needs. But in today’s education world, being able to communicate for security and crisis situations is a basic security need.
Can your school staff quickly and effectively communicate for security and crisis purposes?
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