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Overcoming communication challenges: two-way radios for schools

Overcoming communication challenges: two-way radios for schools

Regardless of school size or location, the main priorities for educational institutions worldwide is to ensure student and staff safety and streamline site activities.

Communication plays a key role in this process. On any school campus, teaching and non-teaching staff should always be able to communicate with each other – whether the headmaster or campus electrician needs to speak with a member of staff.

But while there are sophisticated school communication systems and technologies available for educational institutions to communicate in real-time – such as digital two-way radios – many choose to rely on mobile phones, emails and text messages.

Though these technologies are capable in their own right, they can often be unreliable, slow or difficult to use. Mobile phones are dependent on signal coverage and some staff might be more accustomed to certain operating systems, while emails and text messages can be slow to send and receive.

In this blog, we’ll highlight how two-way radios for schools and other school communication systems can help educational establishments overcome communication challenges in specific scenarios, as well as improve safety and streamline activities.

1. Utilising digital two-way radios for school lockdown scenariosWhen it comes to communication in a school lockdown scenario, current government advice is to use ‘existing internal messaging systems’ such as text, email and staff phones.
But while most (if not all) schools will have these communication systems set up, they are not reliable, instant or secure.
The reality is that in an emergency situation, every member of staff becomes an immediate responder.
Taking this into account, every member of staff should be equipped with a robust, reliable and real-time communications solution; such as a two-way radio.
Here’s why:
• Instant and secure campus-wide communication
Equipped with two-way radios, school staff can share information with each other instantly – regardless of where they are on the campus. If critical information needs to be shared with specific staff members (perhaps the information is sensitive and could compromise student safety), individual channels can be set up to keep communication private.
Mobile phones can only facilitate one-to-one communication, while two-way radios facilitate one-to-many, one-to-one, group-wide (global channel) and much more.
To ensure consistent communication across a large campus, educational institutions can set up repeaters to strengthen radio signals.
• GPS tracking
In an emergency situation, keeping track of members of staff – particularly on a large campus – is a major challenge. Some staff members might be ferrying students to an agreed location, whilst others might be checking isolated areas to ensure all students are accounted for.
In both instances, it’s vital that those supervising emergency procedures (such as campus security) are aware of where everyone is at all times. Digital two-way radios make it easier through the use of indoor and outdoor GPS tracking.
Take the Motorola DP4600e hand portable radio, for example. Lightweight and discreet, the DP4600 comes equipped with integrated GPS for location tracking. If a member of staff using the DP4600 goes missing or is unaccounted for, campus security or other members of staff can check their GPS tracking to find them.
• Lone worker functionality
Another useful feature offered by digital two-way radios is ‘lone worker’. Lone worker allows supervisors (in this instance, campus security or other members of staff) to check in on radio users after specific time intervals. The lone worker’s radio will beep, and they must press the push-to-talk button to confirm they are safe and available. If they fail to do so, the radio will go into alert mode and send an alert to anyone who is permitted to monitor the emergencies. To maximise security, schools should allow local authorities (medics and police) to monitor these emergencies as well, as it will allow them to rapidly respond to situations.

Find out how we helped Kingsley Community School to implement digital two-way radios for their school’s emergency procedures.

2. Improving communication for facilities management and logistics
Most institutions will have a contractual agreement with a facilities management company which is responsible for the campus’ ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ services. These services include everything from cleaning, security and catering to heating, maintenance and fire safety systems.
Though these services are considered ‘back office’, every school, college and university understands just how important they are. Any issues regarding any of these activities could present health and safety risks to students.
For example, if there was a flood in one of the toilets and some circuitry was exposed in that toilet due to on-going maintenance, it could cause an electrical fire. Facility management staff would be responsible for communicating the problem, but if they are using mobile phones, text or email, the alert might be missed (staff might not have their phones nearby or email open).

Similarly, if construction work is being done on some of the campus’ buildings, facility management teams need to be able to relay that information to staff who can then tell students to exercise caution and stay away.
Two-way radios resolve these issues for schools by allowing management teams to communicate with staff in real-time.
Most facilities management companies will have their own two-way radios – but it’s far more effective if schools hire and provision their own. This way, everyone is using the same radio and has access to the same school communication system. If any problems occur on-site, management teams can relay information to staff, who can then alert students if necessary or escalate the problem to the appropriate person.

3. Event management, safety and security
The last communication challenge educational institutions have is managing communication, safety and security during events. School fairs, sports days, conferences and other events can be incredibly difficult to manage as they are often open to both parents and the public.

Some educational institutions – namely colleges and universities – have open campuses with multiple buildings, entrances and exits, so it can be incredibly easy for the wrong people to get in and out during events.

To minimise unauthorised entry and safeguard students and parents in attendance, security and teaching staff at entrances and exits need to be able to communicate any suspicious behaviour at the point of contact. Mobile phones are far too obvious and take too long to use, so they need an instant and discreet solution.

Two-way radios for schools provide just that. They can be paired with Bluetooth accessories (headphones and microphones) to provide a truly discreet communications solution. Security or teaching staff just need to press the push-to-talk (PTT) button and speak normally. These devices also come with noise-cancelling technology, so the background noise of the event will be diminished, and the user’s voice accentuated.

For more comprehensive security, these radio systems can be tied into alarm/emergency services to guarantee rapid response from authorities. This allows support to be directed to the right place at the right time – check out how we helped Merseyside Sport to do so.

Compared to mobile phones, text and email, two-way radios represent far better quality and value for money. Not only do they offer a reliable, instant and secure way to communicate, they can also be integrated with other school communication systems, as well as alarms, cameras and other solutions to deliver a complete security solution.
If you want to find out more about two-way radios for schools and how we – SFL Mobile Radio – can help, click here.

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