3/17/14: Completion of County's 911 Upgrades Heralds Next Generation of Emergency Response

Modified: January 23, 2015 2:59pm

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Countywide System Improvements Span Five Years, Provide Vastly Improved 911 Service

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Town of Cheektowaga Supervisor Mary F. Holtz, Erie County Commissioner of Central Police Services John Glascott, and Town of Cheektowaga Police Captain Scott E. Pilat to unveil the completion of Erie County’s 9-1-1 system upgrade project. Begun in 2009, the three-phase project replaces an aging 9-1-1 call system with a robust and resilient network that works with any type of telephone switching system, allows better flexibility and handling of call volume overflow, and is “Next Generation” ready, which means it is ready to add new features without additional major expense as industry standards develop. The upgraded 9-1-1 system locates a Public Safety Answering Point (“PSAP”) and new workstations in 19 local communities with a design that allows any call taker from any agency to work at any facility at any workstation, with even greater efficiency, savings, and capabilities envisioned in the future.

“This project underscores Erie County’s commitment to public safety and our ability to come together as a larger community to build resilience and improve our emergency response capability. The new 9-1-1 system has capabilities that weren’t even imagined when the old system was installed back in 1986, and is upgradable as new software becomes available,” said Poloncarz. “Call handling capacity has improved, the network has a higher degree of flexibility, and the new network will create savings in phone carrier costs as well.  I want to thank the many people involved in bringing this project to fruition.”

Cheektowaga Supervisor Mary F. Holtz stated, “An effective 911 system is a must for a safe community and we were fortunate to be able to implement the upgrades coordinated through the county’s Central Police Services in late 2012.  Residents countywide now have the same ability for improved response to emergency situations that we have thanks to the foresight of County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Commissioner John Glascott.”

Phase I of the project included the creation of two “host” sites for PSAPs, which are located at the Public Safety Campus in the City of Buffalo and the Erie County Fire Training Academy in Cheektowaga. Phase I also included the 2012 upgrades of PSAPs in the Town of Cheektowaga, City of Tonawanda, and the Buffalo Fire Department. Phase II included PSAPs in the City of Lackawanna as well as the Towns of Amherst, Hamburg, Lancaster, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, and West Seneca. Completed in February 2014, Phase III included Depew, East Aurora, Eden, Evans, Grand Island, Kenmore, and Springville, along with Helmuth Fire Control. Each PSAP will have a greater ability to back each other up, share resources, and have greater call surge capacity handling. In addition, each PSAP now has mapping integration with the phone system.

Erie County Central Police Services Commissioner John Glascott added, “The people of Erie County expect and deserve high quality public safety infrastructure.  The new 911 system gives them that.  The challenge that remains is to maintain a commitment to new technologies that will enhance public safety while understanding economic realities.” 

The new system is open standard, IP-based, scalable, and can add features and capacity as needed. Additionally, the cost-effective structure of the new system relies less on proprietary hardware, using commercial, off-the-shelf alternatives. The total cost of the project, including service and support over 5 years, was $8.9 million and was split into three phases aligning with the three phases of the project. Responses to Requests for Proposal for the project were evaluated in the spring of 2010, with Verizon selected as the vendor to provide a software upgrade solution. That solution, Intrado’s Viper System, brings significant changes along with savings to the manner in which the 9-1-1 system connects with the local phone carrier. Previous 9-1-1 carrier costs of over $14,700/month have been reduced to $3,153/month as the system now sends signals to two central servers, accessible to all PSAPs, rather than sending individually to all remote PSAPs through the phone carrier. The new configuration delivers annual savings of $138,600/year or $693,000 over 5 years.

In the longer term, the new 9-1-1 system and workstations are configured to be readily upgradable as new Next Generation features and standards are published and become available. Upgrades will occur across the network and will be delivered to PSAPs immediately. These anticipated features include the delivery of text messages (SMS), photos, video, and vehicle crash data directly to the PSAP via the 9-1-1 network.