How modern communication systems can aid the security industry

Security guards need reliable communications to do their job efficiently. Modern DMR two-way radios combine instant calling with valuable safety features, as well as the ability to interconnect with other wireless technologies

Being a security guard can be a risky business. A reliable communication device can help to reduce that risk and help protect security personnel in the event of an accident or threat, particularly for those in lone worker roles.

The right kind of personal communication device, such as a Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) hand portable terminal, enables a security guard to keep in regular touch with colleagues and supervisors at all times, as well as doubling as a safety device.

The group calling feature allows security personnel to execute their jobs more efficiently and enables them to take part in a coordinated response with colleagues if there is an incident or emergency.

But to be truly effective the communication system itself must be resilient, always available, and have the ability to provide instant communications as any delay in connecting a call could be fatal. The communication device is the security guard’s lifeline, so their safety should not be compromised by issuing them with unreliable devices, especially those on solo patrols.

Security guards sometimes rely on mobile phones. The relative inexpensiveness of mobiles compared with two-way radios may be attractive to employers, but their use can be problematic. Mobile phone signals can be patchy or even non-existent, especially inside buildings, basements, subways, tunnels or at sensitive installations in rural areas.

Mobile signal coverage is determined entirely by the commercial network provider and there is little or nothing subscribers can do to deal with coverage non-spots or network failure. This can leave security guards exposed if they cannot raise the alarm, make a call, or if the call drops while they are on the move.

Private radio
A private DMR two-way radio system, such as that offered by Hytera Communications, on the other hand can be designed to provide coverage exactly where it is needed, including hard to reach basements and tunnels, deep within large buildings and across sites with widely dispersed locations. Capacity, robustness, redundancy failover systems and security can all be tailored to a level required by the organisation.

The level of criticality will depend on how essential the communications system is to the organisation’s business operations and its safety and security regime. A private DMR network does of course necessitate investment in radio infrastructure and the need to maintain it in good working order. But DMR’s great advantage is that it gives the organisation full control over its critical communications, unlike mobile phone networks where it has none.

DMR systems also have the advantage of providing instant push-to-talk (PTT) communications (less than 300ms), priority calls, emergency calls and they can send and receive automatic alarms. DMR radios can be integrated with fire alarms, intruder movement detectors and other sensors to provide security guards with alerts in real time.

DMR also provides a much wider range of call options than mobile phones, including individual, group calls and broadcast calls. Group calling is far more efficient than mobile phone as it enables large numbers of people to be contacted simultaneously with just one call. As well as supporting short data messaging, DMR terminals also support a wide range of safety applications to help protect the user.

Safety device
Terminals can be equipped with an emergency button, automatic Man Down and Lone Worker alerts, which provide added protection by automatically sending alerts if the security guard does not respond to an inquiry within an allotted time, or if the radio goes beyond a certain angle should the guard have fallen over.

DMR radios equipped with built-in GPS location technology enable personnel to be tracked, monitored and located in real time. If they get into trouble they can be quickly located and help sent more swiftly. DMR systems enable employers to fulfil their legal duty of care responsibilities to their employees by being both a communications and a safety device. It is also an economic solution as personnel need only carry one device.

The security industry encompasses a wide range of roles and job functions. Security guards are much in evidence at sites of national critical importance such as airports, ports, power stations/utility infrastructure, pharmaceutical plants, oil & gas facilities, central and local government offices and installations and large public arenas, sports and entertainment centres.

DMR systems
Large dispersed sites like airports and ports with many subscribers will almost certainly require a Hytera DMR Tier III trunking system. A Tier III system is designed to handle hundreds, even thousands of subscribers and has a larger feature set than DMR Tier II conventional systems, including a greater range of dispatching applications.

It is worth noting that Hytera also offers a converged communications solution capable of supporting a DMR network, PABX/PSTN telephony and public mobile 4G LTE networks, along with the ability to integrate CCTV, bodycam, IoT sensor data and social media feeds.

This kind of multi-mode comms platform can be immensely useful to keep security personnel up to date with what is happening in a busy place like an airport, for example, as well as providing a seamless way for two-way radio users to talk to mobile phone and fixed telephony users.

Generally speaking, DMR Tier II systems with one or more repeaters are more than adequate to cover smaller sites like a hotel, office, nightclub or factory. It will support up to 80 to 100 subscribers with call groups assigned to different job roles, including security, so each group only needs to hear the radio traffic relevant to their job.

Radio terminals
Hytera offers a large range of DMR hand portable radio terminals, so there is something for every budget and for every type of security job role from lowest to highest risk. Most Hytera DMR radios can be used continuously for up to 14 hours ensuring they can last the length of a security guard’s shift.

Firms with more limited budgets might consider the Hytera DMR PD500 range of terminals, which come with an emergency ‘panic’ alert button and Lone Worker feature and optional GPS. The more sophisticated PD600 and PD700 ranges provide the additional Man Down and GPS safety features and applications and have a very high IP67 rating against dust and moisture ingress.

One option to consider is the Hytera Patrol and Dispatch solution, which provides a simple, user-friendly and cost-efficient way of monitoring and locating security guards on their patrol routes. The solution comprises the DMR PD415 handheld radio, which comes with an integrated RFID reader.

The security guard logs on to the patrol system at the beginning of the shift by tapping their patrol identification card against the front of the radio. As the guard passes a checkpoint along the patrol route, the radio is held against the checkpoint and this scans the location using the RFID technology. All the scans are recorded and can be subsequently analysed.

For security guards working in potentially hazardous or explosive environments such as the oil and gas industry or chemical plants, Hytera has the PD715Ex, PD795Ex, PD715IS and PD795IS ‘intrinsically safe’ ATEX radios, which come with GPS and all the security features as standard.

Many security guards work either semi-discretely or entirely covertly. Hytera’s X1p, (with keypad and display screen) and X1e are small, light and slim. They can be carried in a pocket and paired with wireless earpiece sets making them ideal for covert work. The handsets are also popular with front of house security guards at hotels, for example, where employers may prefer a more discreet, but still noticeable security presence.

At the top of the range, Hytera offers the PD985(G), which incorporates the full range of safety features, as well as full duplex calling, voice recording and support for Bluetooth 4.0. Alternatively, the PDC760 multi-mode advanced hybrid radio supports both DMR and 4G LTE and can be paired with body worn cameras for live video streaming.
The device portfolio is complemented by an array of accessories, including earpiece sets, speaker microphones, antennas, batteries, radio chargers, car kits and carrying equipment such as belt clips, lapel clips and wrist straps.

Bodycams and dispatch systems
It is becoming more common now for security guards to be issued with body worn cameras, or bodycams. Bodycams are known to help reduce anti-social behaviour as people tend to calm down if they know they are being filmed. Video footage can be used as evidence in court, as a means of reviewing incidents and as a training tool.

Hytera now offers four body worn cameras, which double as remote speaker microphones (RSMs). They can be used as standalone devices or paired with a two-way radio. They all feature PTT and emergency buttons, built in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and HD video recording. The new VM780 supports GPS, 3G/4G and Wi-Fi capabilities and can stream live video for greater situational awareness.

Hytera also offers several dispatching solutions for use with DMR Tier II and III systems, which make it easier to carry out administrative tasks (including over-the-air programming of the radio fleet). Dispatchers can also coordinate emergency operations more effectively and increase safety as the control centre can monitor and track security guards whereabouts using GPS location services in the radios.

A much greater range of communication and safety solutions, devices, applications and accessories are now available to aid the security industry. Hytera’s family of products can provide the solution for any type of security job role helping security guards carry out their jobs more efficiently, more productively and more safely. The aim is to allow security guards to focus on their mission, while Hytera technology takes care of the rest.