School Board OKs bid for emergency communications system

Published 3:33 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


On Nov. 8, Isle of Wight County’s School Board voted unanimously to accept a proposal from Bear Communications Inc. to install a one-touch emergency communications system throughout every school in the division. The RFP specifies an estimated cost of approximately $255,000, which will come from the roughly $820,000 in savings from roof repairs that the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors re-appropriated to the division in March for school security improvements.

The emergency communications system will allow school personnel to instantly alert police, fire departments, EMS services and school administrators, all at the same time, in the event of an emergency.

A committee of county and school division personnel evaluated and scored the RFPs on Oct. 1 and 2, and then interviewed the finalists and made their recommendation on Oct. 23. The committee included Mark Mabey, the division’s executive director of administration and operations; Jeff Terwilliger, Isle of Wight County’s chief of Emergency Services; Andrea Clontz, the county’s emergency management coordinator; Rachel Yates, the division’s executive director of budget and finance; Eric Cooprider, the division’s director of information technology and network services; and Chris Coleman, the division’s director of support services.

While the one-touch emergency communications system will have the ability to integrate with the county’s new 800 MHz public safety radio system, Terwilliger assured the School Board that the two systems were not a duplication. Clontz explained that the one-touch ECS would be more for the purpose of providing the county’s 911 center with incoming information, while the county’s plan to equip each school office with an 800 MHz radio would be more for the purpose of the county alerting the schools about a nearby incident.

The ECS could also integrate with the division’s existing parent communication systems. If this option were pursued, activating the system at a particular school would send a recorded message to all parents with children enrolled at that school. However, Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton cautioned, “Working with law enforcement, a lot of times they do not want the message to go out to parents.”

As for the roughly $179,000 bid from Mid-Atlantic Technology Services the School Board accepted in October for a new access control ID badge system for all schools, Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of community and media relations, said that representatives of the company recently completed walkthroughs of all buildings, but a contract has not been signed yet.