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Fairfax, Va. and Verizon Wireless

Written by Susan Geoghegan

What started out as an innovative solution for managing a major upgrade to its 9-1-1 system resulted in a “best practice” benchmark for the City of Fairfax, Va. In the fall of 2011, the city’s Police Department and Emergency Communications Center was faced with having to move their existing emergency call system to another facility for four days in order to initiate the upgrade.  When the original plan to use Fairfax County’s network as a backup was proving to be a challenging and costly option, it was time to come up with an alternative.

In August 2010, as head of the IT division, Fairfax Deputy Chief Major Carl Pardiny utilized funds from a small grant to purchase Verizon Wireless 4G LTE modems for the department’s laptops. According to Pardiny, the new equipment would give officers faster access to state and federal law enforcement databases from their patrol vehicles. 

The following year, when Lieutenant Matt Duckett was tasked with creating an effective plan for the department’s 9-1-1 upgrade, he realized they could leverage the technology obtained by Pardiny to ensure a seamless transition. The Verizon Wireless modems, along with the NetMotion software critical for secure connectivity, allowed them to efficiently accomplish the upgrade without interrupting emergency services.

Lt. Duckett said the plan called for redirecting all emergency and non-emergency calls made to the dispatch center to another site, while the radios and other operations would stay at their headquarters to minimize disruptions.  

“Our dispatcher at the Fairfax County site would enter the call into our CAD (computer aided dispatch) system and another dispatcher at our headquarters could view the call in real time.  With the speed of the network, there was no delay in dispatching calls. Other than some minor technical difficulties, things went smoothly. Fairfax County was a gracious host and went above and beyond to help us during the four days we were at their facility,” Duckett said.

The department was impressed with the flexibility Verizon Wireless technology provided during the upgrade, and it plans to incorporate mobile dispatch centers into its contingency planning during crisis and emergency situations. “It’s something that’s reliable, can be set up in short order, and comes without a hefty price tag,” Pardiny stated. “We’ve jumped light-years ahead with minimal investment.” 

Duckett added that with the speed of Verizon Wireless 4G LTE modems, “some tasks that took several to many seconds now happened almost instantaneously. Now that we know how this works, we can set up a mobile command post wherever we can get a signal.”

According to Melanie Ortel, Associate Director of Public Relations for Verizon Wireless, having access to real-time data can make the difference between tragedy and positive outcomes.  “Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE transforms what is possible in situations where information is needed quickly to assess public safety issues, process important data related to mission critical situations, and help those who are impacted. We’re proud to support the City of Fairfax Police operations and other mission-critical service providers by offering industry-leading 4G LTE network reliability, in real time, to ensure the best possible results,” Ortel said.

Additional information regarding Verizon Wireless’ government solutions can be accessed at http://business.verizonwireless.com/content/b2b/en/wireless-government.html.

 

Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at sgeofl@embarqmail.com.


Published in Law and Order, Jul 2012

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