E-911 portal has been down 3 months

Posted By | August 20, 2012 12:00 am

At the Aug. 13 meeting of E-911 Board of Directors, members discussed moving forward with the narrowbanding project and grappled over how to fix the 911 portal, which has been down approximately three months. According to minutes from two special sessions held by the board last month to chose a bid for the narrowbanding project, Communications Evolutions, a company based in McMinnville, received the contract. All present board members voted for the company to be awarded the contract except Matt McBride. Robert McCormick was not present.
The bid price provided by Communications Evolutions was $254,907.59 and will include 166 portable radios and 109 mobile radios. Board member Jerry Fowler pointed out the county used to have 475 to 500 radios, however, “We don’t need that many. I’ve always said that less radios is better.”
Pagers for emergency workers are not included in the bid. Director England believes that approximately 82 pagers will be needed, but with a hefty price tag of $300 per pager, the board asked the director to research other options, such as phone applications and software that will allow emergency workers to use their cell phones as pagers.
According to Director England, the Rescue Squad recently purchased 30 radios that they believed would prepare them for narrowbanding, however they are not digital, so they will not function when the county switches over to the narrowbanded signal.
Several members of the squad purchased radios with their own money, according to England.
The director stated that there is a $50 rebate per old radio that is turned into the state, for a total of nearly $14,000, and while the number of radios given out will be fewer than the number currently used by emergency workers, England stated, “We are really stepping up to the plate. We are trying.”
While the director says that the squad was initially disappointed with losing the money spent on the radios, they are volunteering to turn in their radios so that the rebate that the board receives will help cover the cost of the new digital radios for the squad, which the Rescue Squad will not have to pay for.
Chairman of the Board Denny Wayne Robinson expressed, “We’re not leaving them hanging.” In fact, Robinson pointed out that a major gain with the digital radios, is that they can be switched to a local channel so that emergency workers on a scene can communicate with each other without going over the airwaves through the repeaters, which are devices on the communications towers that relay the radio signals.
“I hope they see this as an opportunity to cut down on the radio traffic that dispatchers have to listen to,” Robinson stated.
Fowler explained, “Every time they’re talking through a repeater, that repeater is tied up.”
The board also discussed the portal, the computer system that keeps track of emergency calls, that has been out of service for approximately three months, after it was attacked by a virus.
England stated, “The way that the system was set up, it was bound to get a virus.”
He continued that there were firewalls in place but many people had access to the system. Having the system down has cost a great deal of paper and manpower, but the price to fix the system was quoted at $18,613, which includes rebuilding the network with two servers, multiple layers of firewall protection as well as virus protection.
Robinson made a motion to allow the director to have up to $20,000 to fix the system, however the board’s attorney says that because of the cost of the job, it must be bid out or a company who has an existing state bid can be used for the repair to speed up the process.
Robinson then restated his motion to allow the director to investigate using a state contract to reconfigure the network to facilitate operation of the portal and if unsuccessful to solicit bids. The board voted to support this motion.
The board expressed concern that whoever does the job must be a reputable and trustworthy company, as someone with ulterior motives could cause great damage to the county and the system.
Other items discussed:
•The board received a reimbursement check for approximately $169,000 from the state for upgrades.
•The board approved the second reading of the $591,099 2012-2013 proposed budget. Amendments are expected to be made at future meetings.
•The board approved paying Ben Knox of 10-2 Communications $1,000 for climbing towers and digital testing in preparation for narrowbanding.
•Board member Geeta McMillan asked that the board research the possibility of finding a vehicle with official 911 markings for the use of the 911 director. The director often traverses rough terrain and is unable to identify himself as a public official until exiting the vehicle, which can be potentially dangerous. The board discussed obtaining a confiscated car from the sheriff department’s impound for official use if possible.
•There will be a possible changing of shifts on a rotation schedule so that dispatchers can have different days or nights off. Board member Jerry Fowler said the Warren County E-911 office has found a six month rotation to be very favorable with the employees.
•Director England stated that with budget amendments that have been made, he can begin the process of eliminating the scheduled overtime.
•The board unanimously agreed not to pay dispatchers for working at the incident command at the upcoming fair. The Emergency Management Agency has asked for volunteers, but no dispatchers have volunteered. However, paying dispatchers would mean paying overtime and if an incident were to occur at the fair, the board believes that fair patrons would be more apt to call 911 than visit the command trailer. The calls would still go through the 911 center rather than the trailer, which negates the purpose of the command center and the need to have dispatchers on site.
•The board hopes to present a certificate to Dale Jones, who took his own plane and fuel to investigate what was believed to be a plane crash around the White and Van Buren County lines. Director England says that Forestry Agency was unavailable for aid, therefore he contacted Upper Cumberland Regional Airport Manager Jim Kmet, who, within minutes, reported that Jones was on his way to investigate the scene, which was deep in the forest and impenetrable by ground vehicles. “He kept these guys from being out there all night,” England said.

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