Three local leaders went to Las Vegas recently but it wasn’t to play craps or roulette – instead, the event was the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE), which was held from March 27 through March 30.

Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue, the county’s former Emergency Services director, and Commissioner Pat Tillman, who served on the Guilford County Board of Education before becoming a commissioner, spoke at a panel discussion related to school safety and communications systems – something that’s been a huge topic of concern in Guilford County in recent years.

Tillman said this week that, when people think about improving school safety, they usually think about things like scanners, door latches and security cameras.

“They often miss a real essential part – communications,” Tillman said.

He said due to Guilford County Schools’ old thick “Gothic Tutor” buildings – for instance, those at Grimsley High School – it’s often difficult for radio signals to get out when officers ask for help.

There have been several instances lately in the county’s school system where radio communications were thwarted by thick concrete walls in critical situations, jeopardizing safety.

This summer, when the students are out of school, many county schools will get the communications’ upgrades that among other things involve the installation of additional antennas that essentially boost the radio signals.

Tillman said that when we talk about school safety we think often about things like the high-profile threats that make national news on a regular basis these days, but the need for quick, capable and dependable communications extends to things like medical emergencies and bad fights that can occur regularly in Guilford County’s schools.

Tillman said that Perdue is nationally recognized expert on school and building safety and is extremely well respected in the arena of professionals who deal with those issues. Tillman also said it was very rewarding to address an audience on an issue that is truly vital.

“I had an incredible time with Commissioner Perdue and our Director of 911 Melanie Jones earlier this week at the IWCE conference on critical communications related to school safety and security,” he wrote in a text message. “Alan did a fabulous job facilitating and is a true subject matter expert in the Public Safety sphere as it relates to critical communications.”

Perdue is a consultant who travels the country offering advice and presentations on building safety and school safety and he also works on a national committee that stresses the need to incorporate safety elements into building codes.