Maintaining Effective Tech Department Communication by Paul Parrie

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Good communication is the key to accomplishing anything that involves two or more people. Knowing what the other people involved in the process are going to do, what they are expecting and what they are actually experiencing is crucial information. For time sensitive situations (aka live events) expediency is a necessity.

Sure, just about everyone in the facility carries a cell phone. But, who is on duty? Do I actually have their number loaded in my phone? There are few things more annoying in life than relaxing by the pool on a day off when the phone starts ringing because someone at the office can’t log into their email account or can’t find a wireless microphone and they don’t know who to call for help.

As the National WWII Museum in New Orleans prepared to open its new facilities in November of 2009, it became obvious to those of us in the Technology Department that internal communications would be woefully lacking in a facility the size we were about to open. Security was using antiquated radios in simplex mode. All other departments were communicating via cell phones and land lines, sneaker-net or… not communicating at all.

In response to this situation, and in advance of a complete breakdown in communications, the Technology Department put its collective heads and experience together to create an enterprise-wide Comm Plan. This plan maps out the communication devices, how they are used, who uses them and when they are used.

Each department has been given a “Call set.” For instance, the Technology Department has the 700 set. All members of the Technology Department have call signs that fall in that range, i.e. AVP of Technology is 700; Theater & AV Systems Manager is 701. Facilities Management has the 800 set, Security the 100 set.

Giving individuals specific call signs is the most efficient way to quickly reach the exact person you need. There are no guarantees, however, that the person you are attempting to reach is at work AND has their radio turned on. This issue gave birth to the creation of “Duty Manager Radios.” Each department has a Duty Manager. Anytime the Museum is open (public or private events) there is a Duty Manager onsite for each department and that person is carrying a radio.

To simplify the process, the Duty Manager call signs for each department end in the number 10; Technology Duty Manager – 710, Facilities Management – 810, Security – 110, etc. In this way, when someone needs help from a particular department, a call to the Duty Manager will always result in a response.

The other major aspect to the plan is frequency usage. We have two repeaters operating on two separate frequencies. Security, due to the critical nature of its mission, gets its own channel - Channel 1. Operations (Technology, Facilities, and Visitor Services) utilize Channel 2. All the radios have the ability to send/receive on either channel – anyone can alert Security to an emergency and vice versa. Also, the radios are equipped with 16 channels for conversations that may be lengthy and don’t require the repeater (simplex mode).

Training the staff to utilize the Comm Plan to its fullest was a relatively simple process. Lessons on radio etiquette, channeling and call sign usage were all part of the training. Additionally, each radio has a laminated card attached to the back indicating the departmental call sets which assists with expediency.

Overall, the Comm Plan has resulted in better inter-departmental communications and more efficient operations. All of this to ensure that visitors to the National WWII Museum have the opportunity to learn about “…the war that changed the World…” and the people who fought to preserve our freedom.

Paul Parrie is the Associate Vice President of Technology at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA. Paul has over 25 years experience in Broadcast Media, Information Technology, and Media Creation.


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