2-Way Radios Are Valuable Tools for K-12 Schools

Each school must evaluate its needs and resources to determine the right communications system for them.

Communications planning should be a foundational piece of any school’s operational platform. At Educators Eyes, we are fans of two-way radio communications in K-12 schools. No, that is an over simplification. We are fans of affordable and well designed two-way radio networks that meet both the daily and emergency operational needs of a school and school district. In some cases, this may be one-half watt FRS radio handsets purchased at an outdoor retailer. In other cases it may be a 5 watt P25 digital trunking handset using FCC licensed frequencies and purchased from a commercial radio dealer. For most schools, likely the need will fall somewhere between these two extremes.

As always in schools, budget is a consideration. In the past few years a large number of the public safety entities in the United States have moved their radio operations from VHF or UHF to the 700 MHz radio band. The good news here is that a significant amount of VHF or UHF equipment is available to be donated for repurposing for school use. It’s worth discussing with your first responders. Remember, these guys know radio. They may also be able to help you define your needs.

RELATED: How to Plan for Unified Emergency Communications on K-12 Campuses

Two-way radio has a number of inherent benefits as a communications modality in the K-12 school environment. The first is scalability; as the need for communication with an individual is noted, simply give them a handset. Next is the one-to-many nature of radio communications. This one-to-many capability is valuable in daily school operations and becomes even more critical in the case of an emergency.

Depending on the incident, a large number of people will all need the same information, and delivery of that information is time sensitive. Additionally, these situations are generally very fluid, and changes occur rapidly. Radio allows for a rapid two-way flow of information shared among a large number of people. The use of a one-to-many radio network will keep everyone involved in the response up to date and working under a common operational picture.

Brian Armes and Guy Bliesner are co-founders of Educators Eyes. Armes previously was a teacher and school principal, while Bliesner was previously an educator and health, safety and security coordinator
for a school district in Idaho.

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