Dispatching systems are becoming more technologically sophisticated.
Dispatch Systems…Two Case Studies
By Kathy Marks
Law enforcement agencies that expand or build a new facility have many purchases to consider and basic furnishings, sometimes including state-of-the-art consoles, are very important. It is, however, no good to have the most sophisticated consoles in the world without accompanying communications equipment of the same caliber. Among other major considerations are whether to stay with their existing RMS and dispatch systems. Dispatching systems are becoming more technologically sophisticated, as are most communication and information management systems.
Probably one of the most advanced systems involves a cloud-based solution to the dispatch centers. DispatchNow from Tiburon is in the forefront of providing these state-of-the-art services. David Hopkins, Director of the Steuben County Communications Center in Bath, N.Y., is proud of their new cloud-based communications center. Their jurisdiction includes almost 1600 square miles, and about 100,000 residents. They are the 9-1-1 center for all emergency services in that jurisdiction. They dispatch all city police departments, the County Sheriff, the New York State Troopers, and all of the counties’ 46 fire departments, along with handling dispatch services for 22 EMS agencies. They maintain a shift of seven dispatchers on duty 14 hours per day (08-23:59 and from 00:00-08:00 they operate with a 4-5 person team). They handle around 7,000 calls for services each month. They have one of the largest secure cloud-based dispatch centers in the United States.
They do not charge a fee to any of their subscriber agencies for their services. They did build their communications’ solution with the “shared tenant services” model in mind, with a long term goal of having other counties or cities join them on their platform, thereby reducing their startup costs and allow them to purchase into a higher functioning solution for less money. Hopkins stated, “The doing more with less model has become the norm; we are just a little ahead of the curve.”
Dispatching in the Cloud
With respect to using cloud technology for their communications center, Hopkins reported, “The idea of using the cloud based solution is relatively new. However, when I really looked it over, it really was no different than what we had been doing with our Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) for the past seven years.”
He said during that time, they had no network based outages, which led him to step back and look closely at the cloud model and say, “Yes, I am comfortable with this design.” He said he was not a typical 9-1-1 center director, having spent 20 years working in the telecommunications industry in a range of positions from field technician to Director of National Operations for the CPE division.
Hopkins said the cloud solution is a good model for offering a cost effective solution to the ongoing deployment, support and administration of the CAD system. Their system design is very simple, with two sites, one primary and a backup. Both of their sites are connected by county-owned dark fiber.
They have CAMA trunks from Verizon LL delivered to both sites and stand-alone CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) that allows them to use the location as an individual PSAP or to operate as an extension of the primary site. They were previously a Positron Power911 site and Tiburon picked up the Positron line as their small PSAP solution. Steuben County chose Tiburon based on the economics of their Positron solution, because Tiburon / Positron was very familiar with their previous contract and knew their current needs.
The model Steuben County found to work well for them was to purchase 14 work station computers and two servers. One server was for NCIC / NYSPIN and the other was for local communications. They send text messages to agencies to advise them of dispatch requests and then send end-of-job reports offering agencies summary reports of the dispatch jobs issued to them.
The other server hardware is located off-site at the secure facility in Longmont, Col. They were charged a one-time carrier setup fee and pay a monthly support cost that fit into the previous system’s monthly maintenance cost structure. They have two paths to Colorado; path 1 is a solution that consists of 4 bonded point-to-point T1’s, and path 2 is a broadband-based solution used as the backup.
They get all of the software upgrades from Tiburon, who determines what they need. His team at the PSAP (public safety answering point) is obligated to provide the on-site hands and eyes to assist with trouble resolution. They have found the solution to be efficient, effective and thus far hassle free.
Their choice to use Tiburon was due in part to their previous relationship with Positron and Tiburon’s purchase of that product line; they also wished to remain a one-company PSAP for their CAD solution. They also considered the importance of being able to sort through Steuben County’s historical data and the need to be able to continue the work that was started years before. Pricing and quality were the two big factors in their choice.
ModUcom UltraCom IP
Paul Maynard, Pikeville, Ky. Communications Supervisor, addressed the technological advances made by their department in installing the ModUcom (Modular Communications) system. He said ModUcom provides their phone and radio system, which is fully integrated with their CAD.
Maynard reported they have a state-of-the-art, fully customizable system. “I like it that it was customizable and we built it from the ground up, from the layout of the screens, to the radios, to the setup of the phones and computers.” He said with the customization features, they can even continue to “tone out” the fire departments, instead of texting, using “rip and run” (sending them a printout of the call) or paging them.
They were able to build in a different frequency and set up a transmitter for mutual aid calls. They can change the frequency of the channels themselves at the communications center to be able to communicate with other jurisdictions for mutual aid.
Pikeville covers a little over 20 square miles. They have a “turnkey” dispatch meaning they dispatch every services, from fire, police and EMS to animal control. They are a small to medium department, although Pikeville is a growing city. They have 22 officers, 30 fireman, and three fire stations. They have seven full-time dispatchers and handle around 15,000-17,000 calls per year.
They worked extensively with Ira Gore from ModUcom and while they had previously leased their equipment, making the decision to purchase from ModUcom was an easy decision. They receive each new software update at no cost and they are responsible for installing it or using a local vendor to install it. According to Maynard, “We’ve really had no issues at all with ModUcom and it has been a maintenance-free system since we installed it in October 2008.”
They plan to do a hardware upgrade their next fiscal year and they absolutely plan to continue using ModUcom. The hardware upgrades are not an expensive part of the system, and it is the software that is important.
Ira Gore, Director of National Sales for ModUcom, said Pikeville is using their UltraCom IP system. ModUcom is one of the few manufacturers who manufacture both components, the radio and E911. They provide both systems in a fully integrated seamless package.
Gore reports, “The biggest advantage with our system is the programmability. The customer can have the screens they want without using ‘canned’ screens. They can have the screens that are needed by their department, rather than using ‘canned’ module screens. ModUcom can design the screens the way the customer wants, customized to their needs.”
Kathy Marks has been a child abuse investigator for 30 years. She teaches classes regarding domestic terrorism and is a previous contributor to
LAW and ORDER Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.