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School radios, multiple different units

Dishsoap

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Jun 15, 2020
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I am the facilities director for a school district with 6 schools. I have workers at each school I need to contact often, and cell service is terrible in most of the schools.

Each location has a different type and brand radio that they use.

Is it possible to use a programmable radio to communicate with each school without needing 6 different units? Like a uv5r or something? Also, would that be legal to do?

Thanks!
 

buddrousa

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With out knowing what the other schools are using brand and frequency you can get no true answer. What would be the best thing to do is talk to a radio shop tell them the total school systems needs and buy a built for designed radio system that lets all schools talk to you and each other.
Do not cheap out and buy CHEAP CHINESE JUNK as these are not true commercial radios. Would you buy the cheapest junk school buses? How about buying a UGO for you wife and kids to ride in?
 

jaspence

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Unless the schools are close together, an HT would be useless without a repeater. There are commercial radios that cover more than one frequency band, but a single HT will cost at least a couple of thousand dollars and you will still need a repeater for each frequency. The Baofeng radios could work but are at the bottom of the quality scale and not the best choice. You would need a license for each frequency, but if there are radios in use, that may already be covered. If there are no licenses, this is not a do it yourself project.
 

Dishsoap

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Jun 15, 2020
Messages
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With out knowing what the other schools are using brand and frequency you can get no true answer. What would be the best thing to do is talk to a radio shop tell them the total school systems needs and buy a built for designed radio system that lets all schools talk to you and each other.
Do not cheap out and buy CHEAP CHINESE JUNK as these are not true commercial radios. Would you buy the cheapest junk school buses? How about buying a UGO for you wife and kids to ride in?
Some have nice commercial radios and some don't. They bought different brands because apparently the schools did not want to hear each other. 2 schools are close together. I am not sure what frequencies they are using yet. I ordered a frequency counter off eBay, but it probably won't arrive from China for a month.

Apparently previous facilities directors didn't need to communicate with their staff as easily as I need to.
 

Dishsoap

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Jun 15, 2020
Messages
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Unless the schools are close together, an HT would be useless without a repeater. There are commercial radios that cover more than one frequency band, but a single HT will cost at least a couple of thousand dollars and you will still need a repeater for each frequency. The Baofeng radios could work but are at the bottom of the quality scale and not the best choice. You would need a license for each frequency, but if there are radios in use, that may already be covered. If there are no licenses, this is not a do it yourself project.
I dont necessarily need the radio to reach from my office to each school. It would just be handy to not need 6 different radios. So when I go to each location, I can just switch to that schools frequency.
 

mmckenna

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I dont necessarily need the radio to reach from my office to each school. It would just be handy to not need 6 different radios. So when I go to each location, I can just switch to that schools frequency.
Yeah, it entirely depends on what each school is using. A frequency counter may give you some useful information, but it will not give you the entire story, or all the information you need to program a radio to match.

There may be a real mix of radios, frequencies, analog/digital, etc. Getting all the info you need to make an educated decision on what you need is going to be extremely difficult on your own.

There's an issue with letting each school purchase their own radios, as you can see.
Unfortunately it is all too easy for non-radio savvy people to buy random radios off e-Bay, Amazon, or even the local store. What they can end up with is a mix of radios that may require licensing, may not be legal for use in your country, or may be causing interference to other legal/licensed users.

In an ideal situation, a radio shop or someone with enough experience should be involved in making sure each school has radios that are not only legal to use, but are capable of talking with each other if the need arrises. It may be more expensive in the long run, but keeping the schools operating legally and in a way that makes sense would be an overall cost savings.

Probably not the answer you are looking for. If you get the chance, try and steer the district as a whole to a legal and compatible radio platform. That will pay off in the long run.

Your issue is not unique. Unfortunately the flood of cheap radios coming in from China with little to no restrictions has created a lot of issues. There are schools that have been fined by the FCC for illegal operations. Also, transmitting any info that shares identifying information for any student may be in violation of the schools privacy rules.
 

GlobalNorth

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..Also, transmitting any info that shares identifying information for any student may be in violation of the schools privacy rules.
That would also be a violation of the Federal FERPA (1974) law, assuming we are referring to the United States and publicly funded schools.
 

cmdrwill

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Well, the OP did not give us any clue where these schools are. Any FCC Licenses???????
 

paulears

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This would surely be an ideal application for wi-fi connected network radios. Cellular is out, but schools normally have good wife, so IP connected radios could be useful.
 
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In addition to a frequency counter you need to find out the CTCSS codes being used. These are called PL or DPL codes and need to be the same as the school is using for you to hear and talk to the local users. If a school has DMR radios it's called a color code even though the choices are 0-15 (and no it wasn't a federal govt decision to use a number for a color).

Jetstream made a unit that did that but I think it's been discontinued, can't find it now. If the radios were bought from a dealer instead of bubble packs from a local store the dealer will have this info. You might find VHF and UHF being used which would mean a dual band radio for you to avoid one of each.

Ask each principal for their FCC license and paddle their behinds if they don't have one.
This link lets you search by name, probably the easiest search in your situation.
 

Kaleier1

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Dec 27, 2019
Messages
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Hopefully he didn't order one of those frequency counters that you put a crystal in and it tells the frequency.

I did see a frequency counter on Ebay for $46 with CTCSS decoder.
 

paulears

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As a side issue - we have pretty strict privacy laws for child protection in the UK, and there's some feeling that as the radios mention the kids names, where they are, what they're doing (as in David Smith's mum will be late home, so can you tell him he has to go straight home and mum will be home at 5pm) that this means analogue radios that can be listened into are breaking the law? Plenty of radio firms saw this as a way to flog expensive equipment to them!
 

mmckenna

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….that this means analogue radios that can be listened into are breaking the law? Plenty of radio firms saw this as a way to flog expensive equipment to them!
I think the bigger issue is that sometimes school administrators don't think before using the radio.
Ideally analog would be fine, and radio users would avoid saying names or specific details. But that's probably not going to happen.
 

paulears

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It's amazing what you can hear. people just don't understand comsec, and to be fair, why should they? Radios are like phones, private!
 

ai8o

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Oct 6, 2007
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Lexington, NC
<<<<<Assuming that you have working WiFi in each of your buildings;>>>>>>>>

You could avoid all the hassle of getting licenses from OfCom, and avoid paying fees for frequency coordination.

Look at WiFi "radios" with a HT form factor.

These HTs communicate thru the already existing WiFi network.

The Icom IP100H is one example, there are other similar units available from Kenwood, Yaesu, Tait.

These "radios" look, talk and feel to users like walkie-talkies.


There are several advantages here:

1) you won't need to buy any repeaters.
<<<<< The units will use the WiFi infrastructure that is already in place.>>>>>>

2) you can standardize on ONE version of HT that will work in all buildings,
3) This will allow buying in large lots, which will reduce your per unit cost
4) if a unit is lost, stolen, or broken, another identical unit can be shared from another building
5) the same units can go back and forth between buildings WITHOUT reprogramming,
6) you can program several different talk groups in each each radio
7) each building can have its own group, or
8) you can program an "all call group", so that all workers can be reached at once, or
9) workers from one building can contact workers in another building directly,
10) you can program other talkgroups (Admin, Security, Food service, Medical, etc) into the same model radio,
so that these various separate groups can talk amongst themselves without impinging on other groups communications,
11) putting all the talk groups in every radio will allow the different groups to talk to each other in emergencies.
12) privacy of coomunications will be enhanced, because the signals are not going out of the building

Several caveats here:
1) there must be WiFi coverage in all areas of the buildings where you want to use the HTs.
to insure complete coverage, Wireless Access Points may need to be installed in areas where they normally wouldn't be
2) Wifi Router must have Uninteruptible Power Supplies.
3) Each buildings WiFi must be connected to the internet to allow inter building communications.

Questions?

PM me here on RR.
 

12dbsinad

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Mar 15, 2010
Messages
1,242
The problem I've found with WiFi radio's is typically schools want the radio's to work outside, like out on the sports fields, evacuations, school bus pickup, etc. This type of system begins to fall short EXTREMELY fast in those situations.
 
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