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Van Wert County updates 9-1-1 system PDF Print E-mail
Monday, September 09, 2013 12:00 AM

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VAN WERT — On April 9, Van Wert County 9-1-1 Operations implemented a new 9-1-1 system. The previous 9-1-1 equipment could no longer be supported by the manufacturer and was not capable of working in the digital world. Because of the out dated technology it could not work with newer services that use IP (Internet protocol).

Plans began months before as Kim Brandt, county 9-1-1 Coordinator, began working with the 9-1-1 Board. They formed a search committee to find a digital capable 9-1-1 system. Keeping current in the 9-1-1 world by attending industry training, 9-1-1 Coordinator Brandt knows Next Generation (NG9-1-1) is coming - basically moving 9-1-1 service from the old analog-copper wire way of doing things to the new digital (IP) way.

What is NG9-1-1? In today’s 9-1-1 environment, the public can primarily make only emergency voice calls and teletype calls (by deaf or hearing impaired persons). Only minimal data is delivered with these calls, such as automatic number identification, subscriber name and Automatic Location Identification, when available.

In the NG9-1-1 environment, the public will be able to make voice, text or video emergency “calls” from any communications device via Internet protocol-based networks. The PSAP, Public Safety Answering Point, of the future will also be able to receive data from personal safety devices such as Advanced Automatic Collision Notification systems, medical alert systems and sensors of various types. The new infrastructure envisioned by the NG9-1-1 project will support long distance call transfer from other PSAPs, as well as transfer of emergency calls to other PSAPs — including any accompanying data such as map data. In addition, the PSAP may be able to issue emergency alerts separate from 9-1-1 to wireless devices in an area via voice or text message and to highway alert systems.

After more than a year of research and several system quotes, the 9-1-1 Board agreed to purchase a NG9-1-1 ready Solacom system through Indigital Telecom. Indigital started operating as a competitive local provider in the Allen County, Ind., market, serving small to medium sized business with integrated voice and data services. In 2004, Indigital Telecom was selected by the Indiana Wireless 9-1-1 Advisory Board to build the new Indiana IP 9-1-1 network. The company built a private, high speed IP network, the first large scale public safety network of its kind in the United States.

Indigital’s NG9-1-1 network and equipment experience made them a perfect fit for the new Van Wert County 9-1-1 system. Van Wert County 9-1-1 Operations purchased a “hosted solution” because it made the most sense in today’s rapidly changing technology environment. In addition, it saved around $70,000 compared to cost of an “on site” system.

Hosted solution means that the actual brains of the Solacom system are housed at Indigital’s office and connected to Van Wert County 9-1-1 Operations over dedicated network paths that use Internet technologies.

9-1-1 pays the cost of one piece of equipment that serves both PSAP at the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department. This saved purchasing two large pieces of equipment that take up space, use electricity and require maintenance. The Indigital solution provides Van Wert County residents and visitors a very capable and affordable NG9-1-1 system. This does not mean you can text to 9-1-1 today, it means Van Wert County 9-1-1 is preparing for new capabilities (beyond voice calling) phasing in over time, as other required parts of the equation become available. Service providers have to implement IP interfaces and be able to process multimedia data before 9-1-1 can process calls by text or with photographs. The Emergency Services Internet Network (ESInet) needs to be built.

Locally a comment that comes up is about how 9-1-1 could save money if we had central dispatch. I can honestly tell you that does not make sense for Van Wert County. Here are the reasons why: The founding committee of 9-1-1 in Van Wert County created the 9-1-1 system using existing equipment and personnel. The call takers and dispatchers already knew the city/county maps and are familiar with law enforcement , fire and EMS personnel and office procedures. Setting up 9-1-1 this way saved hiring and training new people, finding a separate building or facility and the expenses that come with that. If we did have central dispatch, where would it be housed and how much would that cost? We can’t do without the dispatchers that are in place because they are needed for the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department to work efficiently.

Setting up 9-1-1 with existing personnel and communications equipment- such as radios and telephones- means that the dispatchers’ salaries were and still are paid by the respective department. No new funding was needed to purchase additional communications equipment and hire additional personnel. 9-1-1 Operations is funded today through the 50 cents wire line fee and the 25 cents wireless fee.

These user fees pay for 9-1-1 equipment and office expenses as well as 9-1-1 related training for dispatchers and the coordinator; coordinator expense is also paid by user fees. In 1995, when 9-1-1 began, the city and county split the coordinator expense. Today with wireless funding and wire line funding, 9-1-1 is self-sufficient and actually contributes funding to the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department to help pay dispatchers salaries.

On top of 9-1-1 call taking and dispatching duties, dispatchers are responsible for officer safety, radio communications and walk in traffic, as well as administrative calls. If we had central dispatch as a standalone, agency dispatchers would not have this other productive work to do between 9-1-1 calls, yet their salary and other communications expenses would still exist.

Van Wert County has moved forward toward NG 9-1-1, but at the federal and state level, a lot of work is still underway to develop and implement NG 9-1-1.

While NG9-1-1 and the information/data coming in with a 9-1-1 call could be some time away on a widespread basis, when forced to buy new equipment, it makes sense to buy a system that is prepared to handle this type of communication. Van Wert County is close to Allen County, Indiana and 9-1-1 needs to have compatibility within our region. Before Ohio can implement a NG9-1-1 system, we need a state wide IP network. Ohio will need a method of providing training for dispatchers to handle new types of communication and we need adequate funding for all these operations. The state of Ohio has formed a group called statewide emergency service Internet protocol steering committee (ESInet). This group consists of ten members. The steering committee shall generally advise state policy makers on the implementation, operation, and maintenance of a statewide emergency services network. Recommendations shall include a review of the current funding model for Ohio’s 9-1-1 systems and may include a recommendation for a reduction in wireless charges. They will examine the readiness of the state’s current technology infrastructure for a statewide Internet protocol network. They will research the required legislative authority needed with regard to governance and funding of a statewide network and provide recommendations on best practices to limit duplicate efforts to ensure an effective transition to NG9-1-1. They will make recommendations for consolidation of PSAP’s to accommodate NG9-1-1 technology and facilitate a more efficient and effective emergency services system.

The ESInet committee will recommend policies, procedures and statutory or regulatory authority to effectively govern a statewide emergency services Internet protocol network. They will designate a NG 9-1-1 statewide coordinator to serve as primary point of contact for federal initiatives. They will coordinate with statewide initiatives and associations such as NENA, APCO, state interoperable executive committee, the Ohio geographically referenced information program council, the Ohio multi-agency radio communications system steering committee, and other interested parties.

The NG 911 statewide coordinator is the person who will also be responsible for aggregating the number of access lines per provider in Ohio, calculating the aggregate costs and cost recovery associated with providing 9-1-1 service. This includes current coverage under tariffs and bill and keep arrangements within Ohio, as well as any other information requested by the steering committee as deemed necessary to support the transition to NG9-1-1.

For our part, Van Wert County has moved to become a part of Indiana ESInet, and has been among one of the first agencies in Ohio to move to Internet protocol technologies.

Brandt has worked with local Internet provider Bright Net and Van Wert City Schools to get Van Wert County 9-1-1 Operations connected to fiber. 9-1-1 calls still start on legacy analog phone lines provided by Century Link, but are converted to Internet Protocol by the new system.

As time goes by, and ESInets are implemented in Ohio, “calls” will be sent to 9-1-1 using Internet Protocols. With fiber in place, and back up fiber in the works, Van Wert County 9-1-1 is working toward the next steps in implementing NG9-1-1, and continuing to proactively serve our community to ensure public safety. Remember today we still need you to dial 9-1-1. Texting and photos to 9-1-1 are still in the works, there is no way for a text or photo to be processed by 9-1-1 today. I will let you know when this technology becomes available in Van Wert County.

Please contact 9-1-1 Coordinator Brandt if you have questions in regard to 9-1-1 at 419-238-3866.

Last Updated on Sunday, September 08, 2013 11:41 PM

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