24th February 2006
An innovative radio system, installed by Radio Communication Company, Northwest Radio, is providing major benefits for Gladstone House, a secure children’s home in Liverpool. The home is benefiting from a system called RMS-NET (Radio Messaging System), which as well as providing basic voice radio communication for the staff also gives text/status messaging, an integrated guard tour management system and a full reporting structure of all radio traffic held on a central computer database.
Gladstone House is a Secure Children’s Home based in Liverpool licensed by the Department of Health. It opened in 1980 and has made great advances in the rehabilitation of young offenders into the community. It has accommodation for 18 children in 2 units (Gladstone and Norris). Gladstone House is one of 18 units around the UK contracted to the Youth Justice Board.
One of the biggest political issues today is the level of youth offending, which is higher in the UK than any other country in Europe. The purpose of Gladstone House is to stop children from reoffending. A purpose built, Education Unit provides a comprehensive education facility on site, which adheres strictly to the National Curriculum. This area consists of a large indoor games area, a computer room, a science room, a fitness suite, a craft room, four other classrooms and two outdoor recreation yards. Alistair Davidson, Director of Gladstone House said, ‘ Lots of time and effort are put in to the children and they have a very long schooling day from 8.30am – 4.30pm.’
The radio system assists the team in the management of violent behaviour, patrolling around, approaching visitors on campus. The handportables are supplied pre-programmed with status messages so those users can easily keep the office informed of routine operations. RMS-NET integrates twelve Icom IC-F41GT UHF Guard Tour handportables, one UHF IC-F2610 basestation and a PC. All radio traffic including voice and status messaging is communicated to the UHF base station, which is then logged and stored on a central database. This provides important records of that all health and safety requirements have been met and that staff have undertaken assigned duties.
Ian Maclure, Security Officer at Gladstone House said, ‘ Gladstone House was already a customer of Northwest Radio and was already using IC-F4GS UHF handportable for 3-4 years. We use to have an open channel system where everybody had to listen to all radio traffic. We also had to keep the volume up on each radio. The advantage of RMS-NET is that it is a closed and we now have individual calling.’ He further added, ‘We use status messaging instead of voice, which is much more discrete and also cuts down on radio traffic. This allows us to alert staff of a disturbance without the risk of being overheard. If you used voice communication, you might have the chance of other inmates hearing what is going on which might exacerbate the situation further. A subtle status message letting the staff know the situation and location is incredibly discrete and is just one of the many cutting edge features that the RMS-NET-Net solution can provide.’
The Guard Tour radios used at Gladstone House have a specially attached reader to scan badges laid at various parts of the facility. The reading of the tag is performed in two ways (automatically or after pressing a button on the radio). Badges are located throughout the facility including the sports hall and the bedrooms. Each scan is logged and stored on a central database in the main office.
Ian Maclure said, ‘As a team, we have always recognised advances in technology and have looked at the latest development and benefits that technology has to offer. There were two key reasons why we looked at this RMS-NET system. Firstly, to reduce voice traffic that could disturb important parts of the unit such as individual lessons. Secondly, it has allowed us to monitor vulnerable children in their bedrooms overnight. There are strict guidelines from the Youth Justice Board which state that the residents should spend 13 hours out of each room each day. The radio solution offers the back up for that. RMS-NET has provided documentation, procedures and backup. In addition when fully up and running we will have a weekly audit where we will interrogate the data.’
Ian added, ‘Another benefit is that we can send status messages in conjunction with badge reading. For example, if you were checking the rooms and all the residents were safely asleep our personnel would read the badge of each room and send a status message that everybody is safely asleep. This records that everybody has been checked and that they are well. Therefore it provides discrete multifunctional benefits.’
Three staff per shift use a radio as well as the On Call Manager, Security Manager and Education Manager Status messaging provides staff with covert status that if we needed help we can require it with a minimum of fuss. Subtlety of messaging of system allows the team to deal with not only internal issues but also other issues such as irate visitors. If for instance a visiting relative becomes over emotional at reception, a simple status can alert the team to assist. An orange button on the radio can generate an emergency call to the rest of the staff on shift.
Stun and revive function have also been programmed into each radio. Ian Maclure said, ‘This has been incorporated because of the possibility that residents can get their hands on the equipment and hide the equipment. In that likelihood the radios can be made inoperable.’