As schools are starting to re-open throughout the UK, communication between staff members will be more important than ever during an epidemic like this. Regardless of school size or location, the main priorities for educational institutions worldwide is to ensure student and staff safety and streamline site activities.

I’m sure you are already aware that 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.

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.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these technologies are capable in their own right. However, they can often be unreliable, slow or difficult to use. Mobile phones are dependent on signal coverage, which is not always guaranteed, 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 have highlighted how two-way radios for schools and other school communication systems could help educational establishments in overcoming communication challenges in specific scenarios, in addition to improving safety and streamlining activities.

1. Utilising digital two-way radios for school lockdown scenarios

With regards to communication in a school lockdown scenario, the current government advice is to use ‘existing internal messaging systems’ such as text, email and staff phones. The majority of schools will already have these communication systems set up, but more often than not they are unreliable, not instant or not 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.
If you are wondering why, we have explained this in a few points below:

Instant and secure campus-wide communication

School staff that are equipped with two-way radios 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 school, educational institutions can set up repeaters to strengthen radio signals.

GPS tracking

In an emergency situation, keeping track of members of staff – particularly in a large school – is a major challenge. Some staff members may be ferrying students to an agreed location, whilst others could be checking isolated areas to ensure all students are accounted for. So, in both instances, it’s vital that those supervising emergency procedures (such as campus security in a university) 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.

For example, take the Motorola DP4600e hand portable radio. It is lightweight and discreet and the DP460 comes equipped with integrated GPS for location tracking. If a member of staff using the DP4600 goes missing or is unaccounted for, staff can check their GPS tracking to find them.

Lone worker functionality

Another useful and popular feature offered by digital two-way radios is ‘lone worker’. What is lone worker? Lone worker allows 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.
In the event of the staff member failing to do this, the radio will go into alert mode and send an alert to anyone who is permitted to monitor the emergencies. To maximise on security, schools can allow local authorities (medics and police) to monitor these emergencies as well, as it will allow them to rapidly respond to situations.

2. Improving communication for management and logistics

Most schools will have a contractual agreement with a facilities management company which is responsible for their ‘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 understand just how important they are. Any issues regarding any of these activities could present health and safety risks to students.

For example, if construction work is being done on some of the 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.

In this case, two-way radios would 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 on our list is managing communication, safety and security during school events. This would be tevents like 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 schools – typically 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 increase security by minimising unauthorised entry and safeguarding students, 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. In a scenario like this, two-way radios provide just that.

Two-way radios 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. The majority of these devices also come with noise-cancelling technology, so the background noise of the event will be diminished.

As a business, Comms Spec pride ourselves on providing tailored solutions to meet all kinds of requirements – especially last-minute emergencies! In most cases, we are able to provide a same-day delivery service.

Two-way radios represent far better quality and value for money that mobile phones. 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 or you are looking for further assistance, we would love to help! Simply send an email to [email protected] or give us a call on +44 333 000 7888.