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Years of Planning and Preparation Come to Fruition at Smith County 9-1-1

In the early hours of January 7, 2004, the Smith County 9-1-1 Communications Center was abuzz with activity and anticipation. Years of planning and preparation were about to come to fruition as the County’s new 9-1-1 and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was about to “go live.”

The work had begun years before with a groundbreaking for the new 15,000 square-foot “hardened first response facility,” which took place in October of 2002. Once the Center was under construction, negotiations began with SBC for a new computer telephony integration (CTI) based 9-1-1 system.

One of the key objectives of the 9-1-1 District was to implement a telephone system that would streamline emergency communications and prepare the operations center for next generation technologies such as voice over IP (VoIP), and the advanced intelligent network (AIN). In addition, District officials wanted to minimize the desktop and backroom footprint by utilizing a phone system that could process both 9-1-1 CAMA trunks and digital administrative calls.

The District signed a contract and scope of work document to implement a VESTA 9-1-1 system from Plant Equipment, Inc. (PEI), a leading developer and manufacturer of 9-1-1 telephone systems for more than 30 years. The VESTA system consists of a digital PBX telephone switch that allows telecommunicators to process both 9-1-1 and administrative calls. Work began with the “Pallas” PBX being installed in the electronics room.

In addition to the Pallas PBX, the electronics room needed to be equipped with highly reliable and redundant power supplies, 9-1-1 trunk lines, cabling and specialized racks for 9-1-1 system and other applications. The “backroom” also houses the radio backbone, computer aided dispatch, and MagIC, a MIS package from PEI that tracks and reports on telecom, trunk and agent activity.

The operations floor is designed to accommodate up to 14 call-taking and/or dispatch positions. The new VESTA system on the desktop allows telecommunicators to control emergency calls with a keyboard and mouse and utilize automated dialing, one-click transfers, a teletype module to process calls from the hearing or speech impaired, and an instant recall recorder to re-check calls for audio clarification. VESTA also automatically displays the caller’s phone number (automatic number identification), and address (automatic location information) and even supplemental information associated with the ANI/ALI.

Once the new system was installed, telecommunicators commuted between the former public safety answering point (PSAP) at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office to the new Center for training. In addition to the hands-on training exercise, the new system was put through a series of stringent tests by SBC to make sure calls were processed quickly and efficiently. New features such as transfers, hold, speed dials, etc., were tested on all lines. All tests were replicated at each of the fourteen positions to verify proper function.

When all involved were satisfied that the new 9-1-1 system was functioning properly, SBC and the District scheduled January 7th at 5:00 AM as the time for the calls to be re-routed to the new facility. Details of the cutover were scheduled by the SBC Program Manager.

During the cut-over the live 9-1-1 traffic was re-routed to the new 9-1-1 trunks at the new Comm Center. When live traffic was switched to the new site, test calls were made to confirm that all 9-1-1 traffic was answered and processed correctly. During the twenty-four hour period following the cutover, 514 calls were received, and 4,441 calls were received during the first week of operation.

Today, the center processes approximately 900 9-1-1 calls per day and serves as the primary PSAP for the unincorporated area of Smith County and the Whitehouse Police Department.

Established in 1968, Plant Equipment, Inc. (PEI) is a major solutions supplier for public safety equipment providers including: Motorola, Qwest, SBC, Sprint, and Verizon. The industry leader in public and private safety telecommunications, PEI’s product lines include Advanced Call Processing, Conventional Telephone Systems, GIS / CAD / Mapping / RMS, Information Management Systems, and Digital Logging. PEI is a Nortel Networks Developer Partner, an ESRI Business Partner, a HP Business Partner and a Microsoft Certified Partner.

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