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February 18, 20133 min read

Protecting Your Investment and Serving Your Community


State Capitol of Idaho, BoiseThree critical steps for elected officials to take when choosing a radio system.

The useful life of a two-way radio system is around 10-12 years, so it’s no surprise that elected officials may serve several terms without having the opportunity to make decisions regarding a new system for their community.

When the decision does arrive, being prepared to ask a series of key questions about the proposed system will go a long way to making sure the community’s needs are met and investment protected.

Step 1: Understand the role of the radio system in your community

Three questions to provide a simple starting inventory to help you understand the communication paths between all departments:

  1. which departments will be using the proposed system and which ones will not?
  2. which departments have mission-critical communication needs?
  3. how will departments on the proposed system communicate with those that are not?

Budget constraints may have excluded a department with mission-critical needs from the proposed system; the police department may be included in the proposed system but not the fire department. It’s extremely important to uncover any communication challenges this scenario might create before an actual mission-critical event occurs in the community in which both police and fire need to coordinate.

Step 2: Understand the investment you’re approving for your community

Three questions to help determine the level of financial exposure you could incur after the proposed system has been installed. Does the proposed system…

  1. include any hardware, software or capability that would prohibit introduction and simultaneous use of another manufacturer’s equipment on the system once installed?
  2. explain the total cost of ownership for the expected useful life of the system, accounting for hardware and software support
  3. provide discussion and pricing to guard against manufacturer product (hardware and software) end-of-life during the useful life of the system?

When making decisions regarding the purchase of a new radio system, it’s important to understand if the manufacturer(s) is compliant with the applicable worldwide technical ‘open’ standards and hasn’t proposed any hardware, software or feature that will limit – or eliminate – competition now and in the future. Failure to identify such practices will hold the department(s) captive to a single manufacturer, which creates inflexibility and is usually expensive.

Step 3: Understand the performance you should expect

Three questions that provide a view to the expected performance of the proposed system once it’s been installed, protecting the initial investment. Does the proposed system:

  1. allow for changes during the implementation?
  2. guarantee clear communications from all devices throughout the community service area?
  3. make provisions for measuring the quality of experience from the employee’s perspective throughout its useful life?

Unlike the occasional dropped or choppy voice call on a cell phone network, users of mission-critical networks have no tolerance for poor communications. The difference between receiving and not receiving clear instructions can make the difference between life and death.

When procuring a new mission-critical communications system, organizations work hard to express their needs and expectations so vendors have the best opportunity to deliver on desired outcomes. However, the responsibility for ensuring the system performs to expectations, especially after installation, mostly falls to the organization throughout the useful life of the system.

Take care to uncover, gain clarity and request documentation in areas regarding performance. Failure to do so could expose your organization to unplanned expense and a negative response from your employees and the community they serve.

This is an excerpt from our white paper: “Making informed decisions about your community’s radio system: an Elected Official’s guide” which you can download here.


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