Communication is critical in a time of emergency. This school year, thanks to a concerted effort between Stafford County Government, the Sheriff’s Office, Schools and a local Motorola contractor, Stafford’s school bus drivers will be able to communicate via state-of-the-art radios. The radio system, used by Stafford’s public safety professionals and other departments, will help safeguard Stafford’s school children by bringing the ability for bus drivers to get a direct connection to the 911 Center from anywhere in the county.
“We collaborated with our Schools’ officials to select a dependable radio system that allows our bus drivers to have direct radio communications with our 911 Center. Our Board of Supervisors makes the safety of our children and schools a priority,” said Stafford Sheriff David Decatur. “We knew the antiquated radio system in the County school buses needed to be replaced with a more reliable, robust communications system that can be utilized in emergencies and during a time of need.”
The emergency radio system used by the schools was becoming obsolete, leaving some bus drivers with no ability to get a radio signal in some parts of the county. Sheriff David Decatur went to then-Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson and told him of his concerns with the limitation of the system. He proposed that the Schools Transportation Department and its more than 280 buses come online with the robust Motorola P25 radio system used by public safety and other departments. Dr. Benson agreed and went to the Board of Supervisors during last year’s budget season to ask for the appropriation of $1,640,000 to pay for the radios.
“To the Board of Supervisors, it’s an investment in the lives of our school children,” said Griffis-Widewater Supervisor Jack Cavalier, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “Our Board, the Sheriff’s Office and the Schools all understand it is essential that bus drivers can communicate 24/7 as they transport our most precious cargo. And knowing that the previous system would not work correctly in parts of Widewater, I am thankful that our joint efforts have come together to solve this concern.”
Once the Board of Supervisors appropriated the money for the purchase of the radio systems for the buses last February, the clock began to tick on getting them installed by the start of this school year. Motorola’s local distributor, Communication Specialists, took it upon itself to beat the timeline set for installation, enabling Stafford County to have a cushion of time to train bus drivers.
"This partnership improves our effort to communicate during emergencies," said Superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools Dr. Scott Kizner.
The Motorola system operates via radio systems in the buses, similar to CB radios. That’s where the similarity ends. The signals bounce off of one of 14 towers located around the county. The towers have battery backups and generator backups. The signals can go to many places including one of the three dispatching consoles at the Schools’ Transportation garage as well as the County’s 911 Center. Through an incredibly sophisticated computer system, dispatchers can pinpoint the location of a bus, talk to the driver, give instructions and dispatch anyone who may need to assist them.