6 advantages two-way radios have over cellphones in an emergency

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6 advantages two-way radios have over cellphones in an emergency

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There are five distinct advantages a well-planned two-way radio system has over a traditional cellphone in an emergency.

  1. Instant communication
  2. Network independence
  3. All, Group, and Individual Call functionality
  4. Interoperation Capabilities
  5. Emergency features built in the device
  6. Flexibility

Let’s set up some real scenarios for comparing these two devices in real world situations, before we go into more details on the 5 advantages.

Managing a K-12 school

In the United States public & private schools K-12 are required by state laws to drill on building lockdowns, fire drills, and student evacuations. They also have active shooter drills, managing students coming into the school in the morning and dismissal in the afternoon. All of these scenarios speed & clarity of communication is important, especially in an emergency.

Managing a Manufacturing Plant or and type of industrial plant operation

In the modern plant workplace worker safety is a serious issue; some plants are faced with managing volatile materials, operating dangerous equipment or in a dangerous environment, and have many fast moving parts between man and machine. Most plants run quarterly if not monthly safety drills on spills, fires, injured workers, security breaches, and evacuations.

Managing a high rise building or large facility

Today building managers have a lot of challenges on their palates, looking after security concerns inside and outside of the building, managing crews for maintenance and construction, weather events affecting their facilities, and making sure if something happens the people inside their facilities can get out safely.

Instant communication to the right people

No delays caused by dialing and waiting for someone to answer

The first advantage a two-way radio has over a traditional cellphone is Instant Communication, once the user presses the radio push to talk button and speaks into the radios microphone the call is sent over the airwaves and to the radios that are tuned to that channel will hear the call. With a cellphone you need to find the number, even if the number being dial it a hot key or button, dial that number and hope the person on the other end answering the phone. The average wait time of initiating a cellphone call is 10 to 25 second. Then hoping that person you are calling doesn’t have the ringer turned off, have the device on vibrate, or are in a no coverage area. In emergency situations adrenaline is high and people can make mistakes like calling the wrong number or fumbling with the cellphone to find the right number.

With a properly design two-way radio plan and training, all the user has to do in an emergency is press one button and instantly they are calling the right people in your organization for help.

Network independence

With a well-designed two-way radio system you are not dependent on the cellular networks. You essentially own your own network and have complete control of it. In any major disaster of late, large event like an earth quake, school shooting, and weather events the cellular networks go down and grind to a halt because they were never design to handle that type of traffic that follows these events.

By having you own small network you are insulated from these issues the cellular networks present and your emergency calls to your staff will go through. After Super Storm Sandy one of our chemical plant customers had no electricity, no land line phones, and 3 feet of water in their plant, but they had two-way radio coverage and were able to secure the chemicals inside their plant and begin the recovery process.

All, Group, and Individual Call functionality in two way radios

Modern two way radio systems have the ability to give the radio user many options in making a radio call. They can call everyone on the system with an ALL CALL, they can make a GROUP CALL and call just the maintenance staff or security personal or the emergency response team at their facility, or they can make an INDIVIDUAL CALL to the plant manager or the school principal or head of security. These calling features give the radio user flexible tools to talk to many different departments at the touch of a button.

Interoperation Capabilities

Some facilities like chemical plants, schools, and other commercial industrial settings need to be able to communicate with Public Safety Organizations like Police, Fire and EMS during an emergency event. Two-Way radio systems can give you the ability to interoperate with these agencies if planned for ahead of time, and designing in the interoperation capabilities to the system. With a turn of the radio dial you could be communicating with the Public Safety organizations at the scene. We can even tie in a smartphone & computer devices to talk on your radio system too, in emergency situations.

Emergency features built in two-way radios

Some standard or optional features todays radio can offer are emergency alert button, man down alerts/switches, and lone worker.

The emergency alert button is typically the big orange button you see on today’s higher grade two-way radios. This button is either on the top of the radio or and the side by the push to talk button. The radio dealer custom programs this button to activate an alert and audible alarm that goes out to a predetermined radio channel where it is heard by the staff responsible for responding to emergencies. The audible alarm can be programmed to continue sending this alarm for infinity or until the user that activated it turns it off. This feature is great if you have a hurt worker in a plant that becomes incapacitated and you need to find them. Just follow the audible alarm coming from the radio.  The alert that is heard by the listening users can also hear an alarm go off on their radio as well notifying them of the situation. This feature can also be programmed to have the microphone go live without pressing the push to talk button of the user who activates the alarm for hands free operation.

We also recommend using custom radio identifiers if using this feature because when the alert is triggered it can visually display the user who activated the alarm if you radio has an LCD screen.

Man down alerts some two way radios have this feature built in or in some instances you can have an optional board installed into your radio. How this can work is when the two-way radio goes horizontal for a predetermined amount of time, say 120 seconds, the emergency alert on the radio will activate and radio users listening to the channel will hear the alert. This feature is handy when workers are going into a dangerous situation, working in a hazardous environment, or the health of a worker maybe in question.

Lone Worker is another great emergency feature that is standard in many mid to high tier two- way radios. Here is how it can work. The radio user is going into a part of the facility alone; they then press a button on their radio to activate the lone worker feature.

If the user that activated the lone worker feature doesn’t press the push to talk button on their radio with in a predetermined time range the emergency alert will activate. This can get piece of mind to a worker in a large facility.


With all the features two-way radios can bring to the table in emergency situation you have great flexibility to design and plan a radio system that will make your people safe and secure in the environment they live and work in.

The key to emergency planning is having a set of written emergency procedures, a clearly defined chain of command, roles and responsibilities in responding to emergencies, and have a two-way radio dealer who is knowledgeable enough to help you achieve your communications goals.

One last parting point of difference regarding two-way radio vs. cellphones, with two-way radios there is no monthly incurring fees you own the system all you need to do is maintain it.

Let us know how we can help your organization be safer and more secure in emergencies situations.

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By |May 5th, 2014|Categories: Two-Way Radio|0 Comments

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