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Bates College Deploys Wireless PA System

Bates College in Lewiston, ME has implemented a long-range wireless public address (PA) speaker from Ritron. The LoudMouth lets public safety personnel use a portable two-way radio, base station, or mobile radio to broadcast "live" voice messages over PA speakers from up to two miles away.

"While PDAs and cell phones are great, they leave a gap in emergency response for those not carrying or paying attention to them," said Tom Carey, director of Security and Campus Safety. "We've eliminated the Achilles heel in our emergency response with an ability to wirelessly broadcast live, long-range messages to PA systems strategically placed across campus. By piggybacking on our existing two-way radio operation, our Ritron wireless PA system enhances our emergency response and security without the cost or complexity of wired infrastructure."

Though the system can work with repeaters for greater coverage, Carey said he finds it has sufficient range for Bates College's 109-acre campus without one.

The college recently tested the PA system in a live, large-scale training exercise involving Bates, city police, fire fighters, and other first responders. The college became "ground zero" in a hypothetical ammonia-release at the campus hockey rink. "We had to warn students, faculty and visitors to stay away from the hockey rink, and inform those on campus to shelter in place," Carey explained.

"When we field tested the wireless PA system in the training exercise, it worked exactly as we hoped it would," he said. "Its unique alert noise, distinct from police, fire, and ambulance sirens, got everyone's attention. Then our communications officer delivered a live, loud, and clear message to the campus areas where the most people gather. There they successfully sheltered in place until the situation was resolved."

The recommendation for the system came from reseller Maine Radio, which has also installed a wireless PA system at the University of New England in Biddeford and Portland, ME.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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