Chardon Local Schools personnel in northeast Ohio can use their MOTOTRBO radios to speak directly to first responders on a P25 network, thanks to the recent installation of the SchoolSAFE bridge link that was created by a Motorola Solutions dealer in Colorado.

While Motorola Solutions’ ASTRO 25 P25 networks are designed to meet the stringent requirements of public-safety communications, school districts are more inclined to use more-affordable MOTOTRBO radios for daily use, said Patrick Gray, Motorola Solutions’ director of North America channel operations and development.

However, during an emergency, school personnel wanted to be able to communicate directly with first responders that were being dispatched to the scene, instead of having information passed through multiple people—a common occurrence, according to Michael Hanlon, superintendent of Chardon Local Schools.

“Typically, on site, we had a limited number of lower-grade walkie-talkies that were just talking to each other,” Hanlon said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “That information would somehow get to someone—in the school office, presumably—who would make a 911 call. Then, first responders would be reporting to the school or to the scene, and all of that information would flow through whoever might be on the phone with them at the time … but not someone who had firsthand knowledge of the incident.”

Colorado-based QDS Communication—a 13-employee dealer for Motorola Solutions—developed the SchoolSAFE solution that lets a 911 dispatcher activate a bridge between the MOTOTRBO system at a school and the P25 public-safety network, Gray said. The QDS solution has two major components: (1) a “technology tower” that houses a MOTOTRBO and an ASTRO 25 radio that are linked together to create the potential for a communications bridge, and (2) software housed at the 911 center that enables a dispatcher to activate the bridge, if warranted.

“The software that does the bridging technology actually resides at the 911 dispatch center, so the 911 dispatchers are in complete control of turning the bridge on or off,” Gray said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.