09/06/10 — Wayne to begin testing new 911 system

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Wayne to begin testing new 911 system

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 6, 2010 1:46 PM

A test console will be installed this week in Wayne County's 911 center to begin training dispatchers on how to use the county's new $10 million emergency radio system.

The new system is expected to be operational by mid-November.

The switchover at the 911 center is scheduled for Sept. 23. That will be followed on Oct. 15 with the installation of radios in emergency vehicles throughout the county.

"The first priority will be a training console where the 24 full-time 911 employees will learn how to operate the new system and software," said Blair Tyndall, manager of the county's Office of Emergency Services. "Then we will start on the six (center) stations."

Tyndall said the switchover date is a "moving target."

"This is the biggest project that Wayne County has done as a county since it built the courthouse," he said. "There are a ton of moving parts and logistics that need to be done. This timetable is somewhat flexible because things may arise that could change the dates somewhat, but we are on schedule right now."

Construction has been completed on three new communications towers at Mount Olive, Grantham and Goldsboro.

The county is locating equipment on two existing U.S. Cellular towers -- one in Seven Springs and the other in Fremont. In those two cases, the county will still have its own buildings, generators and equipment that will be separate from U.S. Cellular.

Being able to share the towers saved the county money, he said.

The microwave system hardware and software have been installed on five towers, he said.

County officials are hopeful the county will be able to use 911 fee revenues to help pay for the microwave system. Recent legislation relaxed restrictions how that money may be used, but the county is still awaiting word as to whether the microwave system will qualify, Tyndall said.

The next step will be to turning on and aligning the units.

"This (microwave) gives us the capability to communicate from the 911 center to all the towers and back wirelessly and eliminates the use of telephone lines," he said.

The current system relies on the telephone lines and AT&T has been "good to work with," Tyndall said. However, telephone lines are subject to problems that could disrupt communications, he noted.

"This gives us more control and more reliable connection," he said.

It also gives the county the option of providing wireless Internet service just by adding equipment and software. Such Internet service could be provided to government agencies, county employees and possibly even to the public.

"The beauty of the system is that the capability is there," he said.

There has been some discussion of providing Internet access, but the county is not concentrating on that at the moment, he said.

The system must be systematically turned on, followed by a long series of acceptance tests for the towers and radios, Tyndall said.

By the middle, or possibly end of the month, the installation of some 1,100 radios will begin for all county fire, police, Sheriff's Office, and rescue vehicles.

The county will lease two buildings where the work will take place in an assembly-line type fashion, Tyndall said. The process is expected to take about 45 days.

Communications International, the company that is installing the 911 system, has hired a team of about 40 people that will install the units, he said.

"On Nov. 12, our timeline calls for acceptance testing," Tyndall said. "We will work in conjunction with the vendor, Communications International, to make sure the new system meets the requirements we have set forth."

The system should be ready to be turned over to the county on Nov. 29.