New radios add to school safety measures

In the ongoing effort to improve school safety, staff in all Yuma School District-1 buildings have been equipped with radios to allow for immediate communication between buildings in case of an emergency.
The system also bridges to the local dispatch center, with some of the radios equipped to receive messages directly from 911 dispatchers. Plus, all the district buses have a radio to allow for communication to the rest of the district, even from hundreds of miles away.
Yuma-1 Superintendent Dianna Chrisman said all of the district buildings have at least two radios, and some have three. There are two in the district office.
“We’re always looking at ways to improve our safety protocols and procedures,” Chrisman said.
The radios were purchased through a School Access for Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant spearheaded by Northeast BOCES. The total grant was $854,882, and also equipped the Akron R-1, Frenchman RE-3, Haxtun Re-2J and Wray RD-2 districts with radios.
Northeast BOCES spearheaded a previous SAFER Grant during the 2021-22 school year for Holyoke Re-1J, Lone Star No. 101, Otis R-3 and Plateau Re-5 to receive radios.
“They’ve been extremely helpful,” Chrisman said of Northeast BOCES.
The program furthers the ability of schools to bridge their local radios with that of their emergency responder community, and district-wide safety teams and other staff.
Motorola Solutions, a partner in the grant, has developed a two-way radio emergency communications solution with unique school-based interoperability equipment to allow schools, the district, and local emergency responder agencies to use two-way radio to communicate, when needed, to manage a school-based emergency or crisis event.
School staff often are the first on-scene when an emergency event unfolds. The radio system provides the opportunity for school staff to immediately work with community public safety agencies as they respond to the event.
When interoperable communication is not needed, the district’s radio system will operate independently from public safety radio.
Yuma-1 recently received its radios. The grant includes staff members receiving training and exercise programs based on the tenets of the National Incident Management System framework, using school-specific crisis scenarios customized to meet the needs of each school district.
As part of the grant application process, various agencies, including local law enforcement, fire departments, ambulance and emergency medical services were contacted to establish a memorandum of understanding regarding interoperable communications.
Chrisman said the radio system came on handy last week when high winds kicked up as students were being transported home. Some of the mini-buses pulled over and waited for one of the bigger buses to show up to finish the route. (Turns out the big buses do better in high winds than the mini-buses.)
“It was nice to hear (on the radio system) what was happening while it was happening,” Chrisman said, “instead of getting a report about it later.”
Funding for the SAFER Grant program was made possible by state legislation passed a few years ago.