The department began the expansion following an independent review by consultants who recommended making enhancements to improve communications, especially in emergencies, Cherokee School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said in a news release.
One of the first priorities was to improve the ability of bus drivers to communicate when transporting students to and from school, Jacoby said.
Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, approved for radio enhancements, were used to upgrade the existing system. The funds were also used to place a radio, programmed with a unique identifier, at each school to be used in the event of an emergency or the loss of telephone or cellular communication.
The district was approved through the Federal Communication Commission to use new frequencies in the UHF band, allowing for a state-of-the-art digital radio system to be created with the intent to improve school-based communication and to allow the CCSD Police Department to effectively communicate with other local public safety agencies, Jacoby said.
The Cherokee School District used annual lease fees from a national communication provider to purchase digital hand-held UHF radios for all school-based administrators and reallocated a large number of UHF radios to the majority of the schools; at that time, only 10 elementary schools continued to use the existing VHF frequency band.
Through acquisition of a federal grant, the school district continued build-out of the digital radio system; new features and capabilities include:
● Close to 96 percent in-building radio coverage for all CCSD buildings;
● CCSD Police units equipped with three radios covering the major public safety bands with the capability of communicating with any public safety agency at the local, state and federal levels;
● Mobile Data Terminals installed, allowing access to GCIC/NCIC information from the GBI and FBI and wanted persons, stolen property and tag and driver’s license information. The terminal also allows access to mapping software, building diagrams and emergency plans of each school along with aerial and interior photos and a number of other communication technologies;
● GPS tracking through the radio system of all buses and police units allowing real-time location on a live map display;
● CCSD Police supervisory personnel can communicate directly to the Cobb County and Bartow County School districts on their radio systems;
● All digital radios have the ability to talk to any other radio in CCSD;
● The Cherokee 911 Center broadcasts lookouts and certain other types of calls to CCSD Police officers over their radio system providing situational awareness of incidents near schools that might affect school safety and operations;
● The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office Mobile Command Vehicle and 911 Center can patch any agency radio or phone call to the CCSD Police radio system, as needed, during an emergency or crisis;
● The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office Mobile Command Vehicle has the ability to talk directly with each local school, as needed, during a school-based emergency or crisis; and
● CCSD participates in the Cherokee County Amateur Radio Emergency Services/Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services organization, providing radio capability on amateur bands directly to Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service and to amateur radios across the country and around the world.
Future plans for CCSD Police Department communications enhancements include establishment of a CCSD Emergency Operations Center to provide a central location for communication, command and control during an emergency, Jacoby said.
This center would have the same radio capabilities as both the CCSD Police and Transportation Dispatch Centers and would interact with the Cherokee Emergency Operations Center as needed.
Another goal is to centralize CCSD Police and Transportation Dispatch Centers to further improve information sharing and response times, Jacoby said.