9 counties to upgrade 911 systems

In an effort to implement cost savings and unify 911 services, nine counties in northern Pennsylvania have teamed up to upgrade to a "Next Generation 911 Telephony System and Network."The counties are Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Venango and Warren."[The counties] have worked together as one entity to create a regional network and improving technology and operations while saving costs to their individual counties," said Michael C. McGrady, the president of MCM Consulting Group out of McMurray.Implementation of the project is scheduled to be completed by March 2013."The average cost for replacement of a single county 911 telephony system is $409,437.50," McGrady said. The total combined cost to all the counties would be approximately $3.27 million."The average yearly maintenance for each county would be $46,904. On the new system, the average county shared cost is $161,713.62."The total for the region is nearly $1.3 million; the average yearly maintenance per county is $21,546.32."The nine counties had all received notice from their current telephony switch manufacturer about the end-of-life for the legacy-era 911 telephony switches," McGrady said Wednesday afternoon at the Elk County 911 Center.Various county officials have been working with MCM Consulting Group to provide "the best 911 redundant response."The current systems reportedly lack redundancy and were not interconnected or capable with "Next Generation 911."Because of this, county offices are unable to transfer 911 calls between counties with automatic location identification or automatic number identification.The northern tier counties have entered into agreements with Cassidian, out of Temecula, Calif., for the "Next Generation 911" (NG911) Telephony System and Zito Media for the IP network for "Next Generation" with fiber diversity. The system design includes a Cassidian Geo-Diverse Patriot "Next Generation 911" Telephony System with one NG911 switch located in the Windstream territory and the second NG911 switch located in the Verizon territory. Each switch will be capable of running the entire network in the event of a failure of the other side."For added redundancy to the system, all of the county 911 trunks would be directed to the Verizon tandems," McGrady said. "From the tandems, one half of the counties' 911 trunks would be connected to the switch in Elk County and the other half would be connected to the Clearfield County switch."Also in an effort to reduce costs, non-emergency and administrative telephone lines will connect to the individual county workstations at the public-safety answering point level."The subject of emergency call volumes was also discussed. There will reportedly be a "default time" that a 911 dispatcher will have to answer a telephone call before the call is transferred to another 911 center."Let's say there is an accident on Interstate 80, right on that Clearfield and Jefferson county border," McGrady said. "You have how many calls coming in and they're all going to Jefferson and they're all going to Clearfield-- if one is being overwhelmed, you can actually have some of those calls routed up to Elk County, or McKean County-- wherever. "Another county can process the calls and send the information back. That way, authorities can be dispatched to the location even though a different county is processing the information."Pick up a copy of the Thursday, March 1, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.