911 centers collaborate to connect
GREENUP, Jun 18, 2012 (The Daily Independent - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The 911 centers in Boyd and Greenup counties are teaming up to apply for a grant to help bring next-generation 911 service to the region.
The two centers -- Boyd's Regional Public Safety Communications Center and Greenup's E-911 Center -- already work closely together, but the grant is aimed at furthering that relationship. It will also help to position the area to be a hub of 911 connectivity for the eastern part of the state.
The grant, through the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, would help to pay for the purchase of an IP-based phone system for both centers. The new phone systems will allow them to accept calls with data such as pictures, video and text messages and be able to share and transfer them to other centers. IP systems are Internet-based rather than traditional copper wire phone lines, said Buford Hurley, the Greenup E-911 director.
In addition to being able to process the data-rich calls, the new system will improve services for residents by allowing the agencies to more quickly transfer calls to the correct center.
"In the wireless environment, we get a lot of misdirected calls," said Sandy Ott, director of the RPSCC. "This will enable us to transfer those calls where they belong, do it quickly, and we'll be able to send the voice and other data that goes with it."
Hurley said next-generation 911 capabilities will be required by the Federal Communications Commission within the next two years. Getting a head start will help the agencies be in compliance faster while helping defray the cost to local governments and taxpayers.
Next-generation 911 will also improve accessibility to residents with certain disabilities. For example, texting can be a better, faster way for the hearing impaired to reach 911, Hurley said. It can also be useful in incidents where individuals can't or don't want to make a voice call but can text.
The new system will also improve interoperability, said Hurley and Ott.
The agencies are already linked via the Lexington-Fayette County 911 Center. In an event where either Boyd or Greenup agency loses its phone service or becomes overwhelmed, calls are automatically routed to the other call center, which dispatches for it.
That connectivity was put into place earlier this year and has been helpful when lightning strikes in April took down communications in Boyd County. Less than a week later, another lightning strike did the same in Greenup County.
But Hurley and Ott want to connect to each other directly, too.
"Buford and I have a dream," Ott said. "We'd like to put a new system in both places and have another interconnection between the two of us. That way if we lose connection with Lexington, we have another redundancy in the system."
"We have worked very well at coming up with complementary policies capable of taking and dispatching calls for the other county as well. That is our goal: to be completely functional backup centers for each other," Ott said.
"The interoperability is working well," Hurley agreed. "We still have a ways to go, but we are going to get there, I think."
The grant could also fund equipment that would allow either or both agencies to serve as a hub for 911 connectivity in the eastern part of the state. Ten 911 centers are now connected through Lexington, with Boyd and Greenup being the furthest east, Ott said.
In the future though, Kentucky's statewide 911 plan calls for complete connectivity across the state between all agencies and 911 centers. Boyd and Greenup want to be prepared.
"They are going to need nodes on the eastern side of the state and we will volunteer to do that," Ott said. "We would both like to have the systems within our centers so we have that capability should it come down it is needed later."
Both agencies are sharing responsibility for writing the grant and getting together necessary interlocal agreements. They hope to receive between $220,000 and $400,000 for a new system. The actual scope and design of the system they build, explained Ott, will depend on the funds received.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2653.
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