New system upgrades E-911 service

Published 9:04 am Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pike County’s E-911 service will be getting a series of upgrades, beginning with a new service provider and an intelligent workstation for call management.

“The current equipment this will be replacing is no longer manufactured and finding support for it is becoming more difficult because it has been discontinued,” said Lee Moore with 911 Consult, Inc., who was hired by the Pike County E-911 Board to provide feedback during this transition.

Moore said one of the most important factors of the new system will come into play with the instillation of new equipment. The system will be installed in a geo-diverse arrangement. That means that half of the system will be located in Brundidge and half will be in Troy.

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“The two systems will work together every day, but in the event one building can’t be occupied due to weather or other factors, the system can run independently from the other location and can answer calls from the entire county,” Moore said.

Ryan Public Safety Solutions, based in Alabama, was awarded a $206,953 contract to be Pike County’s E-911 system service provider and the intelligent workstation model the county will be using is called Guardian and is manufactured by SOLACOM.

“We’re excited to bring Next Generation technology to Pike County in a system they can afford,” said Jennifer Brooks, RPSS vice president of sales marketing.

The county looks for the new system to go live in about four months. When that happens, both the old and new system will run simultaneously during a controlled switch, according to Mark Fortner, executive vice-president of RPSS. Then, RPSS will move the service one trunk at a time until all the 911 circuits are completely on the new system. The old system will remain in place for a time, “just in case” there was any issue with the transfer.

Pike County’s E-911 Director Chris Dozier said there are other items the county needs to upgrade, as well, but that will happen as funds become available. Among the improvements needed are a recorder, map system and computer-aided dispatch system (CAD).

“We will proceed with that as the money becomes available,” Dozier said.

Right now, the county’s E-911 service is stretched financially, Dozier explained, which is part of the reason for a rate increase customers will notice on their landline phone bills. Currently, businesses pay $2 each month for 911 service, and there is a $1.50 charge for lines used in homes. As early as March, that amount will increase to a rate of $2.60 for both businesses and homes.

Dozier explained that people who depend on cell phones pay a fee of $.70 that is collected by the Alabama Wireless 911 Board and divided between the wireless board, the wireless provider and local districts providing the service. Dozier said the minimal wireless surcharge is costing the Pike County E-911 District money as people shift from landlines to cell-only lifestyles.

While the Alabama Next Generation Emergency Network isn’t in place yet, Pike County’s new equipment already has the area poised to participate. Eventually, people will be able to send texts, photos and communicate in other ways previously unused by emergency call centers.

“The board is being proactive in replacing their system before it breaks and preparing for future technology at the same time,” Moore said.