By next fall, UT Campus Safety and Security will be able to immediately connect to any police, fire department or sherriff’s office in the county, thanks to 35 new radios, a base and a new communication system, all of which were obtained at no cost to the university.
Kevin Howell, assistant director of safety and security, said that this new system will allow security to become more involved and integrated with public safety authorities.
He also said that the new system is like the one they have now but that security will be able to connect immediately on the same communication line with law enforcement agencies and emergency services depending on what channel they use.
Howell said that if something like a hurricane were to happen, the radios would allow security and the city to instantly get in touch.
He also said that if there were a statewide emergency, the radios would be able to connect to officials throughout the state.
‘If, God forbid, anything was to happen, we’re instantaneously connected,’ he said. ‘We don’t have to use our phones to try to connect with them. It can hook us directly to what we’re looking for.’
Howell said that while he hopes to never have to use the radios in this capacity, he is glad they will be available.
‘There is nothing wrong with what we have now, this will just make us better [able to act],’ he said.
The upgrade also comes at no cost to the university.
According to Howell, the Tampa Police Department was given a grant by UASI (Urban Areas Security Initiative).
The group gives grants to local law enforcement in order to help bring areas technologically up to date based on an area’s threat level.
Howell said that TPD requested $19 million to upgrade their systems and that UT security was able to ‘piggy-back’ and receive some of this money as part of the same contract.
‘The best part is that we don’t have to expend any funds,’ he said. He added that it would have been hard to ask President Vaughn for the money to fund this upgrade in the current economic turmoil.
Every UT security officer will be assigned to a radio, each valued at $2,200. Howell said that these radios are the exact ones that TPD officers and sheriffs use, except a different model. The ones TPD use cost around $6,000 each. Howell said that while he could have asked for those, they include features security probably would not use, like GPS devices.
‘I can’t see getting something we don’t need,’ he said.
Howell also said that it is important for security to grow as the university grows and that this is one step for Security to keep up.
In addition to the new radios, Howell said in the next year he expects to have a collaborative effort and training assessment between Security and TPD.
‘We want to mesh what we do here with the law enforcement side so it’s seamless if law enforcement ever needs to come in,’ he said, adding that if something like Virginia Tech were to happen, the two sides would be prepared to work together as one unit.
‘TPD is always willing to do anything we need help with here,’ Howell said.
Howell said that it took close to a year to work on getting the radios, but it was ‘well worth it.’
He said the new radios should be up and running by April first, and by August, security will definitely be on the new communication system in time for the fall semester.
‘This is going to be a good thing for the university and the entire community,’ he said.
‘Everything we do is really looking out for the entire campus. All of this benefits every single person who sets foot inside this campus.’