While at a large school district I oversaw their emergency management planning and developed programs and plans to keep students and staff safe. I was privileged to have had individuals who trusted my instincts about safety and security having over 25 years of experience in law enforcement and investigations. I used that knowledge in structuring what responses could be expected by law enforcement and how our students and administrators needed to respond to accomplish the main objective of keeping our kids and staff safe.
One of those areas had to deal with communications and how that process would interact with the security component of keeping kids and community safe. It was not hard to understand that without communications there would be no direction and understanding what was necessary during an emergency. Communications is a key component in any security planning.
One area was keeping our students safe during afterschool events. During these conversations we already had in place a hand-held radio system that tied directly to the school police department. Each administrator carried one of these hand-held radios. We also had base station radios that were located inside the school that was tied to a repeater system that allowed for conversation to the school district police office. But how about the students who did not have a radio or owned a cell phone?
Our next challenge was how our students and neighbors who used the schools after hours could notify our school district police in the event of an emergency. We considered cell phones, which everyone seemed to have, but that was not enough. Our thoughts were also with the students who were on campus late, after school events like football games, choir practice, along with neighbors using our campus for running on the track, church services, and other events that were being used by the community. We then examined the use of the type of systems being used at college campuses and hospitals. These blue or red phone stations needed to be visible, strategically placed, powered, and able to have a camera placed on them for live viewing. We looked to a national company who installed these specialized phones and submitted them into our next bond election.
The locations of these phones were determined by size of the school. Elementary had one phone installed, middle schools and high schools had two phones installed. Phones were placed in the front of the schools and then placed around the football or baseball fields.
We contracted with a local vendor, Northwest Communications, who assisted in updating our hand-held radios and base stations and installed our own antenna system. Our original radios were analog styled radios that had difficulty in penetrating some of our buildings and lost communication capabilities. This transition to a digital system that not only allowed us to enhance our reception, but also increased our coverage footprint. We also were able, during the transition, to utilize both analog and digital radios until the complete transition was completed. This system has proven to be far superior than the conventional hand-held radios being used by the local police because of building penetration.
Please examine your communications system and determine if they meet most of your needs for safety and security. Not only should they be available for your staff, but how about bus transportation, maintenance and operations, or your superintendent and administrators. You should also consider developing your own system that is independent of existing system that could go out and leave you without communication.
If I can be of any assistance in developing your communication needs, please do not hesitate to contact me via e-mail, message, or through my web site, www.rgonzalesconsulting.com and let me help you review and evaluate your communications system to better serve your needs. Thanks… and God Bless