Security Communications: Connecting Schools & Communities with Interoperability

With the start of a new academic calendar just on the horizon, all kinds of preparations are underway. Classrooms are being tidied and prepped for students, bus routes are being scheduled, and superintendents are working tirelessly in collaboration with their communities to plan for the upcoming year.

In the midst of a daunting to-do list, evaluating communication technology can fall to the wayside. Functioning two-way radios simply don’t cut it anymore—in the wake of frequent security and safety threats to American schools and universities, modernized solutions are becoming bare necessities for campuses nationwide.

One trailblazing difference between the radios of yesterday and the technology of today is the potential for interoperability. When emergencies arise, the ability to reach and connect beyond the confines of a school campus significantly saves time, energy, and lives.

What Is Interoperability?

At its core, interoperability is the ability of two systems to exchange or make use of information. This definition applies to communication systems in the same way: An interoperable communication system is one that can connect and exchange data with another, regardless of its type.

What makes this capability so valuable to the education industry is its contribution to emergency communication and crisis management. When a time-sensitive, life-threatening event unfolds on a school campus, first responders must be able to communicate with other agencies and prioritized points of contact to understand the entire situation.

On an internal scale, interoperability can revolutionize the functionality of a school’s existing set of communication tools. Connecting these technologies through a cloud-based service can ensure the functionality and compatibility of all systems, including radios, smartphones, cameras, and more.

Interoperable Communication Systems


Interoperability aims to reduce emergency response times significantly. Mere seconds can make the difference between safely diffusing a situation and endangering the lives of students and staff. Coordination is the key to protecting your campus.

MutualLink utilizes interoperability to connect superintendents with first responder agencies across diverse device or network types. Encrypted radio, video, text messaging, and file sharing provide situational awareness to all involved contacts on their preferred communication devices.

One of the unique functions of MutualLink is its panic button feature, which can simultaneously call 9-1-1, initiate a MutualLink collaboration session between the school and first responders, and notify on-site personnel—all at the push of a button. Additionally, the incorporation of an IP-based solution allows radio, voice, and video communication to connect seamlessly across a wide number of locations and with affiliated partner agencies.


In the event of an active threat, superintendents and supervisors need access to a direct line of communication with emergency responders. Unfortunately, when an emergency affects the entire community, it becomes nearly impossible to contact police officers, firefighters, and medics. Common channels become congested with traffic as panicked citizens and victims attempt to contact emergency services; as a result, vital messages can get lost in the mess.

A dedicated public safety broadband network can bypass any congestion and transmit messages from the school to public safety officials in real-time. This is the essence of FirstNet: A nationwide broadband network that gives first responders a direct line of communication with school superintendents and representatives.

The advanced communication and collaboration technologies of FirstNet benefit first responders as much as the communities they serve; the system allows for people in emergency situations to relay uninterrupted, real-time updates and data. In turn, responses are more efficient, safer, and less prone to the panic that uncoordinated communication can cause.

Developing an Interoperability Plan

The most effective communication methods in times of emergency require interoperability. If you’re looking to introduce interoperable systems to your current communication setup, you’ll want to develop and execute a well-thought-out plan. Ensuring the connectivity and cooperation of your preferred first responders requires a shared, practiced plan.

Planning begins with identifying your primary points of emergency contact, including police, fire, EMS, and other first responders. While the team may include front-line personnel, members should have the authority and skill set to appropriately represent their respective departments.

Once the team is identified, you can begin to assess interoperability requirements. Who must communicate? How and when? Under what situations will agencies need to work together? Additionally, you should conduct an assessment of your communication resources to identify current configurations and any gaps.

The implementation of your solution might require purchasing or upgrading existing equipment to achieve universal compatibility. Once your plan is ready to be set in motion, practice it. This step is critical: Everything must be tested ahead of time to verify both technological compatibility and the mutual understanding of all members involved.

The completion of this plan signals the dawning of a new one: a maintenance plan. This is meant to confirm the functionality of both primary and back-up technologies and devices. Consistent check-ups will ensure that your infrastructure is ready for action at a moment’s notice.

Interoperability at YOUR School: Start Now

Are you ready to experience the benefits of interoperable communication systems for yourself? Whether you’re wondering if this upgrade is right for you or concerned about budgetary restrictions, ESS is happy to help. Contact us today to get started.

Motorola Radio Decontamination Process

The following is official cleaning process for Motorola radios abridged from this document. Please check with your specific radio vendor for detailed instructions:

General Cleaning

For general cleaning, Motorola Solutions recommends mixing one tablespoon of mild dishwashing detergent to one gallon of water (0.5% solution) to clean the external surfaces of the radio. The solution should be applied sparingly with a stiff, non-metallic, short bristled brush, making sure excess detergent does not get entrapped near the connectors, controls or crevices. Do not submerge the radio in the detergent solution. Place the radio under a faucet for rinsing. The radio should then be dried thoroughly with a soft, lint free cloth.


An alternative cleaning method is to wipe the housing plastic down with over-the-counter isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) with no more than 90% isopropyl alcohol concentration. When cleaning with isopropyl alcohol, the alcohol should never be applied directly to the radio. It should be applied to a rag first, then the radio can be wiped down by the rag. Avoid rubbing label or adhesive areas with the alcohol-soaked rag.


If there is a risk that the radio and attached accessories may have been exposed to harmful pathogens or carcinogens, the following cleaners have been approved for use on APX series portable radios. For maximum efficacy, it is recommended that the contaminated radio first receive a “general cleaning” as detailed above. Then:

– For pathogen decontamination, apply “Zep DZ-7” per manufacturer’s instructions

– For carcinogen decontamination, wipe down the radio with either “Hygenall FieldWipes” or “Enspire Fire Wipes” per the manufacturer’s instructions

IMPORTANT: Motorola Solutions, Inc. is unable to, and did not, determine whether any particular cleaning product is effective in removing specific foreign substances (including viruses) from the radio. However, the above cleaners and processes have been approved for use by Motorola Solutions, Inc. related to their less degrading effect on the physical radio. Please consult the chemical manufacturer’s documentation for specifics on cleaning product efficacy with regards to foreign substances (such as viruses).

Note: We do not recommend cleaning with chlorine-based solvents, as they may deteriorate the plating used to protect the exposed metal chassis.


COVID-19 Update & Our Commitment to You

To Our ESS Team, Customers, and Suppliers:

With the growing concern surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we want to take a few minutes to assure you that ESS is taking the necessary precautions to, first and foremost, protect the health of our employees and visitors, as well as best support our clients to minimize any business disruption.

We also ask that our employees, customers and supplier network monitor the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and follow the updates and recommendations around this highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the COVID-19 virus.

ESS is ensuring our teams adhere to our customers’ on-site requirements. We also want to ensure that, as an organization, you are also monitoring and adhering to the CDC advisories and recommendations so that we may continue to keep all of our teams safe during this outbreak.

As service providers we can do our best to ensure that we are performing due diligence to mitigate the spread of this virus.

There are areas to monitor during this time:

Recognizing Symptoms:

  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing

Protecting Yourself and others:

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene:

  • Frequently clean hands by using soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with fever and cough
  • If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider

Travel Advisories from CDC:  

Warning Level 3 for Italy, South Korea, Iran, and China (not including Hong Kong) and a Warning Level 2 Travel Advisory for Japan.

Qualify that no one who has returned from a Warning Level 2 or 3 location or who has had close contact with anyone potentially exposed to the COVID-19 virus is being dispatched.

NOTE: If anyone is exhibiting any symptoms, they should stay home until they have recovered. This is a protection for our clients and our co-workers.

For additional information related to this outbreak, please visit the CDC Website and/or the  WHO Website

Thanks to everyone for working together to get through this.

JVC KENWOOD Radio & Accessories Cleaning Process

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, JVC KENWOOD is providing recommended cleaning and disinfecting instructions for Kenwood radios and accessories to assist with general hygiene guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

General Cleaning

1. Remove dust and dirt from surfaces using a clean, soft cloth. If additional effort is required to remove dust and dirt, a non-metallic brush may be used to loosen dirt and debris.

2. Apply a 0.5% detergent-water solution (ex: natural detergent or mild dishwashing soap) or a 70-80% disinfecting ethanol* solution to a clean, soft damp cloth and wipe down all surfaces. If using a detergent-water solution, distilled water is recommended.

3. Dry all surfaces using a soft clean cloth paying close attention to terminals and connectors. 

4. Inspect the radio to make sure no cleaning solution remains trapped near connectors or inside terminal cracks or crevices. 

* The majority of commercially available disinfecting ethanol is diluted to a 70-80% solution. Please check the dilution ratio before using to clean/disinfect radio or accessory surfaces.

Important Note

JVC KENWOOD is unable to, and did not, determine whether any particular cleaning product is effective in removing specific foreign substances from a device, nor whether any disinfectant will remove all germs or viruses. Please consult the chemical manufacturer’s documentation for specifics on cleaning product efficacy with regards to foreign substances (such as viruses).