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The limitations of radio communication in schools

In the event of an emergency situation, effective communication is critical for ensuring safety and preventing chaos. Radios have long been the primary means of communication for school staff, including security personnel, teachers, and administrators. While radios have many benefits, they also have significant limitations that can hinder their effectiveness in emergency situations.

Limited range & signal interference

The most significant drawback of radios is their limited range. In large schools, it can be challenging to maintain communication between different buildings, making it difficult for responders to coordinate and respond to incidents effectively. This limitation can be especially problematic during emergencies, where every second counts. This is before even considering off-site staff who may want or need to know what’s happening – but would not be able to listen in or contribute whilst out of range.

In addition to their limited range, radio signals can be easily interrupted by buildings or other structures, leading to communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. This interference can be particularly frustrating for school staff, who may be trying to communicate critical information during an emergency.

Inability to handle multiple conversations simultaneously

Another drawback of radios is their inability to handle multiple conversations simultaneously. When multiple responders attempt to communicate at once, it can create confusion and delays in the response process. Additionally, radios typically have a single channel, making it difficult to separate conversations and prioritize critical information. This limitation can be especially problematic during large-scale emergencies, where multiple teams may be responding to different incidents simultaneously.

Lack of privacy and security

Radios have no inherent security features, making them vulnerable to eavesdropping and hacking attacks. This lack of privacy makes it challenging for schools to share sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access to critical information in times of crisis. Additionally, because radios are often used by multiple staff members, it can be challenging to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive information. This vulnerability can be especially problematic during emergencies, where sensitive information may need to be shared quickly and securely.

Lack of evidence

Traditional radios mean that information is shared on a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ basis. Those who are late to the conversation are pulling together the information from zero – risking misinformation and misinterpretations of the situation at hand, and creating the need to continuously re-brief staff as they join the conversation. Having no evidencing of the situation means that staff are relied upon to report on the incident from memory after the fact – which can lead to inaccuracies and missed insightful or critical information. And, of course, with no evidencing built in, manual incident reporting after the fact is time consuming for overstretched staff.

Costly & outdated equipment

Given that radio is a ‘make-do’ solution, it’s certainly costly. As schools scale up or bring in more staff, new radio devices are required to make sure all members have access to one – on top of any other hardware the school might provide, like desktops, laptops, phones and ipads. On top of this, schools will often adopt a daily drop off/pick up rota from one central charging spot – leaving the entire infrastructure far too vulnerable to every-day human error.

Limited Access

It’s often the case that radio access is limited to management teams, due to one (or more!) of the reasons outlined above – leaving the remaining staff members with no way to alert the wider staff of an incident as well being left out of the loop when an incident is unfolding. Radio as a solution for incident management is a catch22 – critically, every staff member needs to be able to report an incident. However, scaling radios up to all members of staff means clogged and inefficient communications channels that are vulnerable to information leaks – and can create more confusion than clarity in times of crisis. 

 

The evolution of incident management in schools

 

The rise of mobile & internet-based communication tools

A substantial shift in incident management technology has been the surge of mobile and internet-based communication tools in general. Online solutions enable simultaneous communication among multiple responders, irrespective of their location. This means schools can coordinate their response efforts quickly and efficiently, even if their staff members are spread across a large school or multiple locations, or even off-site.

With instant messaging and video conferencing tools, responders can quickly and accurately exchange information and coordinate their response efforts, resulting in more efficient incident management. This can be especially important in situations where time is of the essence, helping schools maintain clear lines of communication with leadership and key staff members.

teamSOS is a unique proposition, created for schools and trusts, that goes one step further. Our app gives every member of staff the ability to reach the right responders in just two taps. All staff can have access 2-way communications and a suite of innovative features, including but not limited to live-audio broadcast capabilities (our dynamic feature that replaces walkie-talkies, and records all broadcasts for future play-back), and features like Announcements with real-time response summaries, teamSOS empowers staff in a crisis and means responders can keep everyone informed dynamically as a situation evolves.

Real-time monitoring, evidencing, & data analysis

Incident management systems can provide real-time monitoring and data analysis capabilities. By tracking incidents and identifying trends, organisations can improve their incident response protocols and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

For example, with teamSOS, schools are positioned to identify patterns over time and make informed decisions about how to improve their safety and security measures. If a school notices that fights tend to break out during lunch breaks, they can adjust their security measures and staff scheduling to better address that specific issue.  teamSOS’s customisable incidents mean that schools can intentionally address priority interests, and monitor improvements to outcomes over time.

Enhanced integration capabilities with other solutions providers

Another major development in incident management technology is the increased  partnership capabilities across different school solution providers to provide a seamless 360 view. teamSOS integrates with key providers such as MyConcern and CPOMS, meaning that incidents can be tackled and streamlined with teamSOS, with resulting rich evidence reporting flowing directly into the relevant partner systems – eradicating double-work, the need to write reports, and meaning nothing gets lost in the rush of the day-to-day.

Enhanced safety & security measures

Using incident management software of any kind means schools can quickly identify and respond to potential threats and mitigate risks and reduce response times.  teamSOS’s instant evidencing means law enforcement and other authorities can have an instant and full-picture understanding of what’s happened both during or after an incident.

Radios may have been the go-to solution for schools in the past, but the limitations of this technology make it an outdated option for modern incident management. By leveraging modern incident management solutions, schools can improve communication, collaboration, and response times, resulting in safer and more secure environments for all.

 

Why teamSOS?

  • An affordable and GDPR compliant app accessible via all devices, allowing schools to leverage existing tech already in classrooms and staff hands. 
  • Streamline routine requests and emergency responses with our in-app Call for Help feature, accessible from any device. Two simple clicks enable staff to brief the right responders using 2-way communication, live audio, location sharing, and more.
  • Live Audio and Voice-to-text features replace out-dated radios and bring your communication channels into the 21st century.
  • Optimise your staff response with our interactive Tasks feature. As an incident unfolds, teamSOS provides accessible, in-incident supporting materials for all responders, offering real-time guidance.
  • Stay connected with our secure Messaging system. Beyond incident reporting, staff can dynamically communicate through pre-set or custom groups.
  • Host and distribute your organisation’s content with Guidance. Monitor staff progress with our Heatmap reports and take advantage of free content packs from our expert partners, including offline-accessible bite-sized videos for medical emergencies.
  • Gain unparalleled insights with our instant, rich-media Evidence reporting. Our Live Dashboards provide real-time, organisation-wide visibility, meaning leadership are always informed and are able to advise from anywhere.
  • Equip your staff with Smart Buttons that can be worn on a lanyard or concealed in discreet locations. With built-in GPS, they provide a fast and reliable way for users to raise an alert, enhancing staff safety and response times. 

See how Heron Way Primary School replaced radios with teamSOS and revolutionised their on-call incident management processes, sped up their response times and improved staff and student safety and well-being.

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