Washington College Expands Coverage With Digital Two-Way Radios

Public safety, athletic, and building and grounds departments make the switch from analog to digital.

Washington College Expands Coverage With Digital Two-Way Radios

In the past 25 years, Washington College, located near the Chester River on Maryland’s eastern shore, has gone through continuous expansion of campus buildings, eventually doubling the square footage of interior space on the 180-acre campus. The larger, more sophisticated structures were equipped with new electronic and mechanical features, more lighting and deeper basements.

The expansion, however, created a challenge for the campus public safety officers, whose existing analog two-way radios were unable to penetrate the new buildings due to structural and electronic interference. While the officers carried cell phones as backup, neither option provided a completely reliable communication solution.

“We understood that there were certain places on campus where we wouldn’t have communications,” says Jerry Roderick, director of public safety, Washington College. “That created a safety concern for all of us because once the officer is out of radio contact, their own security is at risk as well.”

The campus public safety team had also set up a mutual aid channel on the analog radio system to enable direct contact and collaboration with the city’s public safety first responders and the 911 dispatch center. However, due to the increased noise and interference on that channel, dispatchers occasionally turned the volume down, inadvertently running the risk of missing a call.

Digital Radios Increase Coverage, Extend Reach

Roderick and staff from Washington College’s emergency operations center contacted Jeff Vadakin from Magnum Electronics, a local Motorola channel partner, to discuss options. Vadakin demonstrated a MOTOTRBO digital two-way radio system to confirm that the radios could increase coverage throughout the buildings and into the basements. The radios also extended the range beyond the campus to the river over a mile away, where the college’s sailing and rowing teams practiced and held events.

The radios provided a host of features, including enhanced call signaling, privacy-scrambling, and transmit interrupt, which would enable campus public safety officers and dispatch to prioritize critical communication over lower priority voice traffic in the event of an emergency.

Recognizing the clear advantages of digital technology to his campus public safety force, Roderick encouraged the use of MOTOTRBO radios for other campus departments as well, inviting both building and grounds (B&G) and the athletics department to come onboard the digital migration.

The college deployed two MOTOTRBO repeaters atop an existing campus cell tower to provide the extended coverage. MOTOTRBO control stations were deployed for dispatch in the security office, as well as in the B&G office, allowing B&G to dispatch their own work crews.

Officers Pleased With News System

Several months ago, a campus public safety officer patrolling the grounds noticed suspicious activity through the open window of a residence hall. As he stood outside observing the situation, he used his MOTOTRBO radio to discretely text another officer, providing data and exact location of the activity. The responding officer was able to quietly enter the building, all the while continuing to silently receive information from the officer outside the window. When the time was right, the responding officer entered the room and took the individual into custody.

“Text messaging allows officers to send situational messages that they do not want to broadcast publicly,” says Roderick. “It’s just one of the features of the MOTOTRBO radios that my officers like very much.”

Brandon Williams is the North America Education Solutions Lead for Motorola.

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