All county schools are getting radios

Aim is better link with the police

December 10, 2006|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

When it comes to school safety, Howard County school officials have learned a lesson from Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In the hours after both of those disasters, an overwhelming number of users rendered cellular phones and land-line phones useless.

When the next disaster strikes, natural or man-made, officials want to be prepared, so they are installing radios similar to the ones used by law enforcement agencies at all 71 public schools.

Steve Drummond, security coordinator for Howard County schools, remembers the communication problems that occurred Sept. 11, 2001.

"Parents couldn't reach schools," Drummond said. "This provides an alternative for communication with the schools."

Maintenance and transportation workers will be trained to use the radios in the next two weeks. School principals and other staff members will be trained in January, when the radios are to be installed. The county's 12 high schools will each receive two radios, and middle and elementary schools will each have one.

"It would allow the police to have better communication with the schools," said Capt. Glenn Hansen, commander of the Information Technology and Management Bureau of the Howard County Police Department. "Each school would be able to contact 911 directly. Our 911 personnel would be able to transfer them to us directly. Everyone would be on the same page."

The radios are designed by Motorola and are "fairly straightforward" to use, said Hansen, who manages all communications and technology for the Police Department.

"I'm not aware of any other school system that has this," Hansen said. "They [the radios] are very sophisticated."

Planning for the radios began two years ago.

"This is not in response to any recent event," Hansen said. "It's a step toward improving communication and coordination with the schools."

The $180,000 cost of the radios comes from the federal Education and Homeland Security departments, and from the Horizon Foundation, a charitable organization.

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