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University of St. Francis Says MOTOTRBO™ Radios Are "Best Practice for Campus Safety"
April 13 2011

Keeping students, faculty, and staff safe wherever they are on campus is a priority. However, the Safety and Security Department at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois was coping with an aging, unreliable two-way communications system, making their jobs more challenging. With their new MOTOTRBO digital two-way portable radios, the Safety and Security Department can now communicate throughout the campus – even throughout the underground service tunnels and all the way out to the new downtown satellite campus located a mile away.

Situation: Inadequate communications throughout the campus
Founded in 1920, the University of St. Francis (USF) in Joliet, Illinois is a private, nonprofit university located on three square blocks of a residential neighborhood. The school’s 2,000 students and 93 full-time faculty split their time between the Twin Oaks campus about four miles away and a new satellite campus for the Arts & Design program, located in the historic Rialto Theater building about a mile away in downtown Joliet.

Like many small universities, the USF Safety and Security Department had not always been a major presence, but September 11, 2001 changed that. Today, the security force is comprised of 15 officers led by Director Tom Uraski, who holds security drills to keep his team sharp and ready to respond. According to President Michael Vinciguerra, “Our Safety and Security Department regularly undergoes training, including updates for best practices for campus safety.”

However, in spite of the university’s efforts to maintain top-notch campus security processes, its aging two-way analog radio system was hindering those best practices.

Poor audio, interference, and dead spots
“When I first came to USF, the first thing I wanted to do was switch out the communications system,” says Uraski. “It was an old system with different types of radios. The audio was terrible, there was constant interference and chatter on the channel, and getting a signal through buildings that were built in the pre-World War II years was really difficult.”

In addition, Uraski knew that the existing repeater, a small desktop unit, would be inadequate for extending communications to the new satellite campus downtown. Having experienced the quality of Motorola radios at his former position as director of security for another university, Uraski proposed switching out the existing system with new technology.

“When I talked about it with Larry Burich, Executive Director of Operations and Facilities Management and our CFO, Bob Tenuta, they took a visionary approach and recommended that we take it a step further,” says Uraski. “They wanted to use this opportunity to start migrating our radios to digital.”

Solution: MOTOTRBO digital portable radios
Uraski contacted a local Motorola channel partner, to discuss the situation and develop a proposal. After learning about the situation, the channel partner recommended MOTOTRBO digital portable radios.

The MOTOTRBO radios would provide reliable coverage between the university’s main and downtown campus, ensure more crisp audio throughout the coverage area and help eliminate dead spots within the campus buildings and the underground service tunnels. The enhanced call management capability of MOTOTRBO would enable the Safety and Security team to talk privately one-to-one or facilitate a group call for real-time emergency alert notification to the entire team. Text messaging would also allow discrete messages to be exchanged either through pre-programmed
emergency notifications or short, free-form messages. And thanks to the radios’ digital technology, the static, noise, and interference of the old analog radios would be a thing of the past.

Last but not least, the radios would help the university facilitate a smooth and cost-effective transition to digital communications. MOTOTRBO radios are dual-mode, which means that a simple switch allows them to easily toggle back and forth between analog and digital. The dual-band capability of the MOTOTRBO radios would allow the university to purchase MOTOTRBO radios for the Safety and Security Department first and then convert maintenance and other campus employees, who still use the analog radios, to digital technology as budget became available.

The Motorola channel partner gave Uraski’s team a set of demo radios to test effectiveness. “The first time we tried them, the clarity of the MOTOTRBOs blew me away,” Uraski says. “I’ve never heard two-way radios sound this good before.”

The channel partner mounted a repeater on top of the tallest building on the main campus and one on top of the Rialto building downtown. This has not only enabled the Safety and Security Department to easily communicate between the two campuses, but also gives a clear signal down into the service tunnels that run underneath the buildings.

The University of St. Francis has seen a remarkable improvement in both the clarity and coverage of their communications throughout and between the main campus and the Rialto Building downtown, as compared to their previous analog system. Although the university decided not to add repeaters to the Twin Oaks campus, the MOTOTRBO system still provides radio-to-radio communications from the main and downtown campuses to the Twin Oaks campus.

“When our security team is driving to the Twin Oaks campus from the main or Rialto, they can communicate with each other via MOTOTRBO radios, almost to the edge of Twin Oaks, which is nearly four miles away,” Burich says. “As we move forward with our transition to all digital, the features MOTOTRBO provides will be of immense value to our facilities, transportation and security teams; especially the ability to link all of our remote campus repeaters through the Internet with MOTOTRBO’s IP Site Connect.”

With the new MOTOTRBO radios, the University of St. Francis Safety and Security Department now has:

Communications throughout the campus: With the old radio system, campus security was unable to communicate with the classrooms located on the lower level; into the tunnels below the buildings; or between the main and downtown campuses. Today those dead spots or coverage gaps are virtually eliminated on both campuses; and the extended range of the MOTOTRBO system enables seamless communications between the campuses.

Enhanced privacy: Text messaging allows the Safety and Security team to quickly and discretely send information, either through pre-programmed emergency notifications or short, free-form messages. “With private, discreet communication on campus being a priority, MOTOTRBO provides USF with multiple communication paths through features like One-to-One calling, private free form text messaging, Radio ID, and Emergency Call,” says Uraski.

Crisper audio: MOTOTRBO radio technology suppresses background noise and improves audio quality. “When we put the digital system in, we were shocked at the clarity we were getting, even two miles away,” says Uraski. “It’s almost like you’re standing right next to the person.”

Greater calling capacity: MOTOTRBO digital radios double the capacity of the university’s old analog radios, enabling more officers to communicate over existing licensed channels, without worrying about interference.

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