The new school year is under way in Boardman and students and staff have a new security device in place that will connect them to safety forces in seconds. The new security measures involve some old radios.
"By last January everyone needed to move to narrow band," said Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols. "Our system was 25 years old and needed replaced."
The change was from broadband to narrow band. Nichols explained that it is like the old radio stations. He said years ago one could tune in a radio station and one could move the tuner knob a little each way without losing the signal. Today's narrow band is different in that the tuner has to be exactly on the station. Turning the knob either way means instantly losing the signal.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Stadium Drive Elementary School secretary Sharon Sawyer tests the new direct 9-1-1 connection the school now has in case of an emergency.
He said the old system would tune in on 25 mhz where as the narrow band goes to 12.5. In essence, the signal from the old system would now hold two different signals in the same band width.
Nichols said the change was an expensive one, but by teaming up with Austintown, both departments were able to pull it off. After the change, Boardman Police were left with a lot of old radios that were still fully functioning. The decision was made to give them to the schools as an instant means of communications.
"What we are trying to do is be pro-active," said Township Trustee Larry Moliterno. "It's the result of what we learned from our mock shooter exercise."
That exercise took place in April and was set up to be as realistic as possible. The importance of communications was a key point that school officials learned from the drill.
"All across the nation, practically everyone has a cell phone," Nichols said. "When there is a situation, people naturally want to contact family members. It overloads the cell tower and communications go down."
He said the old police radios will solve the problem for school officials and the 9-1-1 center in Boardman. The old radios were converted to a 12-volt system and redone for the program. Nichols said has been named Community Access Radio for Emergency, or CARE. The cost of reworking the old radios was paid for by funds from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund.
Nichols said the school staff can now get immediate connections to the 9-1-1 center in an emergency. He said it takes the response time from minutes to only seconds.
"We thank the police chief and trustees for allowing us to repurpose the radios for use in the schools," said Superintendent Frank Lazzeri. "It provides another level of security in a time of crisis. It's also good to reuse, recycle, and re-purpose."
Nichols said the system is in all Boardman school buildings and there is currently talk about expanding the program to the Southern Park Mall and the hospitals as well.