13th Jan 2022
The Benefits of Two-Way Radios in Schools and Colleges
Released On 6th Mar 2023
Educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities hold a strong commitment to ensuring the safety and security of their students. To achieve this, safeguarding policies rely at least in part on the swift and dependable exchange of information.
They are equally dedicated to efficiently managing and coordinating the day-to-day operations of their campuses. This can entail seamless communication across multiple sites, often over a wide area. A number of different stakeholders might be involved, for example, teaching, support and maintenance staff, governing bodies, parent committees, and volunteers.
Read on to find out why a robust two-way radio system should be your preferred choice to achieve your communication goals. You’ll learn why licensed radios make more sense than licence-free radios (walkie-talkies), and why mobile phones might not meet a school or college’s needs.
Situations that require rapid communication
From the smallest pre-school setting to the largest university campus, there are a number of situations where rapid communication is required. Many involve the prevention of safety- or security-related incidents, or assisting with a situation effectively if it happens.
- Access control - alert staff to a stranger or intruder on the premises
- Deal with spills, slip and trip hazards
- Call for assistance with illness or injury
- Respond to bullying or anti-social behaviour
- Immediate response to unexpected incidents
- Natural disasters
- Vandalism or arson
- Coordination of campus activities or field trips
- Easier assistance and communication for special educational needs
- Management of support and maintenance staff
The benefits of licensed two-way radios
Licensed radios are a resilient, easy-to-operate communication system with a number of advantages:
Reduced response times: There’s no dial-up time, or waiting for the recipient to answer. Simply push a single button and transmit your message instantly.
One-to-one, or one-to-many calling: Messages can be transmitted to one person, to a specific group of users, or to everyone simultaneously. We can help you programme your radios to suit your needs.
Reliable coverage: Licensed radios provide reliable coverage over a wide site, or multiple sites, including indoor or outdoor transmission, built-up areas and challenging terrain.
Advanced features: They benefit from more advanced features, either built-in or programmable, which can improve safety and security at your school, college or university campus. For example:
- Lone Worker, for monitoring staff that may be on-site outside normal hours or during school holidays, and raising an alarm in an emergency.
- Function keys that can be programmed to trigger an emergency alert to all radio users.
- Some licensed radios can be integrated into the school’s alarm system to assist with lockdown or evacuation procedures.
- Voice and data messages.
- GPS locating systems.
Robust and durable: The majority of two-way radios are built to withstand harsh environments, and can easily endure the occasional knock, drop or splash with water. Compare this to the relative fragility of a mobile phone!
Privacy: Users of licensed radios have their own, dedicated channels. Communications that may contain sensitive information about students are encrypted and secure, with no danger of unauthorised “eavesdroppers”. This is particularly important to ensure that child safeguarding policies and Data Protection regulations are complied with.
Mixed-mode operation: On large sites, it’s possible there may be a mixture of analogue and digital radios. Most licensed two-way radios can operate in either mode without having to change channel. This means you can migrate gradually from an analogue system to a digital one, as budgets permit, so you don’t need to purchase a complete system outright.
A scalable system: A radio system can be easily expanded to include other handsets as your needs change.
Why licence-free “walkie-talkies” are an inferior solution
For most of the reasons we recommended licensed two-way radios in a professional situation, you can more-or-less say the opposite about licence-free radios (also called walkie-talkies, or PMR446 radios because of the channel they operate on – learn more here).
Group calls and privacy issues: As a rule, you can’t set-up group calls on licence-free radios, although it hardly matters, because anyone can listen in! If someone is within range, your transmissions on a licence-free radio are not private. There are two obvious drawbacks here:
- Group programming enables users to only disturb the people who need to know something (for example, teaching staff don’t need to know there’s been a spillage in the corridor, but maintenance staff do!).
- More importantly, unencrypted transmissions pose a potential threat to child safeguarding.
Lower power means limited range: Licence-free radios are generally low-powered and have more limited coverage than their licensed counterparts. If your school or college campus is in a built-up area, over multiple sites or in difficult terrain, they will struggle to cope.
Basic functionality: Walkie-talkies are fairly basic and tend not to have too much extra functionality. They can’t compare with the safety features that you’ll benefit from with licensed radios, and they won’t offer mixed mode operation for analogue and digital handsets.
Why radios are a better solution than mobile phones
Everyone has a mobile phone, and most people keep them close by, so why aren’t they a good communication solution in an educational setting?
No group calling: Phone calls via the 4G or 5G networks only permit one-to-one calls, which isn’t very helpful in an emergency situation.
Push-to-talk over cellular (POC) devices are growing in popularity, however. An app, downloaded to your smartphone, gives it some of the functionality of a two-way radio, for example, group calls (learn more about POC radios and our Connect Plus app).
Delays: Dialling from phone to phone involves looking up a person’s phone number, dialling it, and then waiting for the person you’re calling to pick up. It’s not an instant connection like two-way radios. Precious seconds are lost, and in an emergency, every second counts.
Coverage issues: Not everyone is on the same mobile phone network, and not every network has good coverage in all locations. How can you guarantee that everyone will receive important or urgent messages and calls?
Call credit required: Mobile phone data and network charges must be monitored carefully to be sure all staff have adequate credit to make or receive calls, whereas licensed two-way radios ensure unlimited transmission time (subject to battery life, of course).
For help selecting the best two-way radio solution for your educational setting, please get in touch.
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