E-911 anxious about narrowbanding deadline

Posted By | September 13, 2012 12:00 am

With the Federal Communications Commission’s Jan. 1 deadline for narrowbanding approximately three-and-a-half months away, the E-911 Board of Directors expressed apprehension at the Sept. 10 meeting that the 90-day timeline outlined in the yet-unsigned contract is a bit too close for comfort.
Director Greg England explained he believes a completed contract between 911 and Communications Evolutions, who won the bid for the narrowbanding project, will happen very soon, and he believes Communications Evolutions will find the latest version of the contract acceptable.
The director also said the contract states Communications Evolutions will complete the project within 90 days of the contract signing date. While the original bid did list a definite date of completion, because of the time consumed with contract negotiations, there are timeline changes that have to be made.
The director presented the board with a “trunking solution” a representative from Communications Evolutions asked him to consider, which they say would help keep the lines of communication from clogging by using all the slots on the repeaters and choosing whichever slot was open and would keep communication open if a repeater were to go down.
Because 911 dispatchers can only hear one call at a time and the price tag is a hefty $14,000, Director England said he did not advise going forward with that option, calling the cost of the project “counterproductive.”
Several members of the board expressed they did not feel the product was something they should consider because calls for help from emergency workers could possibly go unheard by dispatchers.
Board member Jerry Denton said because of the heavy price of the fines for not meeting the Jan. 1 narrowbanding deadline, “I think the big thing right here is that we need to proceed fast and get this thing in because the penalties that the feds are going to impose on you is more severe than the cost of the radios.”
Board Member Chris Isom said he felt it would be safer for emergency workers if they had to wait for a backup repeater to be installed rather than depend on a system that could leave calls from emergency workers unheard.
“We’ve made a contingency plan with a backup repeater,” he said. “Let’s stick to it. I think we’ve got a good plan.”
Director England said part of the redundancy plans that have been created for the switchover to narrowbanding include an analogue channel that will stay in place that emergency workers will be able to switch over to talk, which also negates some of the purpose of the “trunking” project. “We’ve tried to plan in as many redundancies as possible,” he stated.
“Well I’m against it,” Isom said. He continued that if the board decided, for example, that they wanted it next July, “then we mess with it.”
Director England said if they waited, it would cost considerably more.
“But how expensive is the penalty?” Chairman Denny Wayne Robinson asked.
When asked how he felt they should proceed, England said, “I think we need to move forward with what we’ve got.”
If the contract were to be signed on Sept. 11, the day after the meeting, board member Matt McBride calculated under the 90-day term of the contract, the project would be completed by Dec. 11.
“That’s too close for me,” he said.
“That’s 20 days – no, that’s just too close,” Isom replied.
“I don’t care if it costs us $31,000 three months down the road, two months down the road or two weeks after we get done with everything,” McBride said. “We need to move forward on this, on this issue. Get it done and get it over with and then we can talk about other things.”
Director England said there is a “Plan Z.” He said repeaters that 911 already has can be narrowbanded on an analogue signal.
“At the October meeting what needs to happen is we need to know what percentage of the project is done,” McBride said. “At the November meeting we need to know what percentage of the project is done.”
Robinson asked the director to give the board weekly updates on the project. He also asked if they should hold a special-called meeting if the project has not started by the October meeting, which would put the board past the Jan. 1 deadline if the project took the entire 90 days.
The director responded they should call a special meeting if the project has not started by the end of the month.
“If it ain’t done in a week, then I say we need to call a special call meeting,” Isom replied. “I’m a firm believer in Murphy’s Law. Matt’s right, 20-21 days, buddy that’s too close.”
England said, “If you do the math, it’s actually 90 plus 21 days. That’s how close we are to the deadline.”
McBride reminded the board there are also two major holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, which could cause delays in the 90-day timeline, as people usually have several days off of work for these holidays.
With the completion of narrowbanding, there will be recurring cost increases the director brought to the board. The DSL Internet speed will have to be increased from 3.0 to 10.0, which will cost an additional $20 per month. Connecting DSL Internet service to the Jasper Street tower will cost an additional $49.95 per month as well.
England said when inspecting the tower site on Fire Tower Road, they found the area was overgrown, and the site needs to be better maintained. An initial cleanup will most likely need to be done by a licensed and bonded tree service, however the board would like to explore the possibility of using trusties to maintain the area.
Other issues discussed:
•Several members of the board expressed confusion over the layout of the monthly financial documents. Robinson proposed having an accounting firm hold a special training session to explain the reports to the board.
•Robinson announced board member Jerry Denton was leaving the board, and this would be his last meeting. Robinson expressed his appreciation for Denton’s service, saying he has been “an invaluable source of knowledge.” Robinson continued, “It’s been an honor serving with you.”
•A sinkhole has appeared under the pavement near the vault that stores communication equipment. Board member Robert McCormick said, “We need to fill it before it gets worse.” The director said the equipment in the vault belongs to Ben Lomand, and he planned to talk to them to determine how they would like to proceed.
•A lightning strike in Warren County is believed to have caused problems with a trunk, which is a circuit that connects phone lines into the switchboard, which resulted in some missed calls at the 911 center. The director believes the calls were duplicate calls. The center is now doing weekly testing to ensure there are three working trunks at all times.
•Communication problems between dispatch and emergency workers at a recent crash site prompted the director to speak with Emergency Medical Services about implementing a plan for all county emergency workers to use incident command, which would put one person in charge of communicating with dispatchers at an emergency scene. All other emergency workers on the scene from all other agencies would report to the person in command with any requests that needed to be made to dispatchers to ensure that dispatchers were not overloaded with calls and that all calls are heard.
“Everybody has to go to incident command,” the director said. “It’s vital.”
Director England also said he believed that at some point “we’re going to need three dispatchers at all times.”
•While the board believes the FCC will mandate a program that allows texting to 911 within a year, White County currently cannot receive these texts. McBride said commercials airing on a local radio station that give the impression these texts can be received by 911 may cause some confusion to residents.
•The state issued a $300,000 grant for reimbursement of essential or necessary equipment to White County E-911.
•The portal, which has been down approximately four months, has not yet been repaired. However, the board voted to accept a proposal for $14,800 to begin an upgrade that will repair the portal, as well as add extra layers of protection-including firewalls and a separate database that will prevent viruses from attacking the system again. The director also stated there will be accountability for each department accessing the portal.
•Two 911 dispatchers attended the fair to man an emergency response center. They assisted in locating a 12-year-old female who was believed to have been missing.
The next meeting of the E-911 Board of Directors will be held on Monday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m.

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