The Zetron ACOM dispatch systems recently installed in the main and backup 9-1-1 centers at Broome County, New York, are delivering features, functionality, and customized interfaces that have greatly improved the agency’s ability to serve its community.
In April of 2016, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders drew a crowd of about 5,000 to a town hall meeting in the city of Binghamton in Broome County, New York. Managing this type of event can pose significant challenges for law-enforcement, public-safety, and emergency services agencies. Not only must these agencies keep rally attendees safe and secure, but they must communicate and coordinate with each other in order to respond effectively in a highly dynamic environment.
Broome County was up to the task. This was in part due to the fact that they had recently installed new Zetron ACOM systems in their main and backup 9-1-1 centers.
“With our new equipment, we were able to set up a mobile command post at the arena where the rally was being held, take one of our laptops inside, run it off the local Wi-Fi, and communicate with all the agencies involved,” says Broome County 9-1-1 systems administrator, Chuck Rogers. “It was very effective and allowed us to deliver more comprehensive and coordinated oversight and better police, emergency, and security services than we ever could before.”
Zetron and ACOM had been chosen to equip Broome County because they were able to support this functionality and also meet a host of additional requirements that other vendors’ equipment was unable to address. From all accounts, Broome County could not be more pleased with their choice and its outcomes.
Broome County and its emergency services
Broome County is located in south-central New York State, along the border with Pennsylvania. The county’s western half is hilly, with wide valleys that are home to Binghamton and its suburbs. It has a population of just over 200 thousand and covers an area of approximately 715 square miles.
Broome County’s Office of Emergency Services consists of four divisions: Disaster Preparedness, EMS, Fire Prevention and Control, and Communications. The Communications division oversees Broome County’s 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) and Emergency Dispatch Center as well as its NY–Alert emergency public-notification system.
The need for an update
Prior to the recent installation of their new ACOM systems, Broome County 9-1-1 had been using a non-Zetron dispatch system in their main center. The backup center was equipped with only computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and phone; they had no backup for radio dispatching. Thus, the recent project’s original goal was to add radio dispatch to the backup center. They also wanted a console that would work with their existing two-way radio infrastructure as well the Project 25 (P25) trunked radio system they planned to implement in the near future.
Rogers says that this also became an opportunity to resolve some of their existing system’s longstanding issues. “It lacked the broadcast intercom function we need, and it had ‘echoing’ on some channels, especially when multicasting on several channels,” he says. “Plus, it was very difficult and time consuming to make changes to the system, and the fire and EMS paging were cumbersome to use.”
Better system, better price
Broome County secured the necessary funding, then did their due diligence, researching radio dispatch console systems. Based on this effort, they requested quotes from Zetron and the provider of their existing system.
Their provider came back with a quote for a 10-position system for their backup center.
Zetron submitted a proposal that, for the same price, would include a fully redundant Acom system and 17 positions in the main center, and a standalone Acom system and 11 positions in their backup location.
Zetron project engineer, Tad Coyner, who oversaw the systems design and installation for Broome County, says Zetron was able to deliver other important benefits as well. “We were able to give them the improved audio they were looking for,” he says. “That’s something Zetron excels at. Plus, we offered to develop Web-based user interfaces for both their paging and intercom that would use the Acom backroom.”
For all of these reasons, Broome County decided on the Acom system. “Zetron was offering a better system with more features at a better price,” says Rogers. “It was an easy choice.”
‘I never expected it to be so easy’
The installation of both Acom systems began at the Broome County 9-1-1 backup center, with Zetron and Zetron reseller, TuWay Communications, both contributing to the effort.
“We installed the backup consoles and staged the main center equipment at the backup site,” says Coyner. “Then we did a live cutover to the backup site. The night dispatchers worked the main site, and the day shift showed up at the backup site and started dispatching on the new system. We kept the old equipment online for the next week or so. When the time came, we moved the main center equipment to the main site, uninstalled the old system, and installed the new console. We tested it and cut over within a few days.”
Rogers was pleasantly surprised at the ease of the transition. “Nearly all of the dispatchers came to me and told me the training was easy and the system’s functionality was quick and easy to learn and use. I never expected it to be so easy.”
The ‘wow’ factor
Although much of the installation for Broome County was routine, one aspect of it was highly unique.
“The interfaces we created to connect the existing intercom and paging equipment to the new Acom system just wowed them,” says Coyner. “They do a lot of paging for their fire departments, so this was very important to them. They also use their intercom between their main and backup centers and between their different positions. An added bonus for us is that the intercom interface we created for them is now being made available to other customers who need this functionality.”
The best cutover ever, hands down
Rogers has high praise for the project and those who installed it. “I can’t say enough good things about our new Acom systems and the engineers from Zetron and TuWay Communications who helped implement them,” he says. “The timeless hours they put in, never saying ‘no,’ and all the extra custom work. This was, hands down, the best cutover we’ve ever been a part of. And it has made life easier for our dispatchers. You click on the channel you want to talk on, and you’re there. It’s easy to adjust volumes for each channel and easy to set up multicasting and patching. The audio has dramatically improved the dispatchers’ ability to hear subscribers–it’s like night and day. Most important of all, our ACOM equipment has improved the level of service we’re able to provide to our community. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a high-quality system.”