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5 Stars for MAX Dispatch

Scott County Virginia’s new MAX Dispatch system is receiving high praise for its reliable performance, ease of use, redundancy, and adaptability.

The public safety answering point (PSAP) and dispatch center in Scott County, Virginia, recently took a huge leap forward in their emergency communications technology. They replaced their decades-old analog dispatch system with Zetron’s IP-based MAX Dispatch. Known for its streamlined, state-of-the-art look and feel, MAX Dispatch may not be the equipment one might expect to find in a PSAP in Virginia’s Appalachian foothills. But there it is, nonetheless. And it is proving to be the perfect match for an agency that needs a reliable, cost-effective system that is flexible, redundant, and able to carry them into the future.

Scott County, Virginia

Located in the southwestern corner of Virginia, Scott County has a rich history. American folk hero and frontiersman, Daniel Boone, is known to have commanded several forts in the area in about 1774. The county also has 11 stops on the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail that was blazed by Boone and runs from what is now Kingsport, Tennessee, through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky.

With a population of approximately 24,000, Scott County is still known for its rural character and setting. But it is also home to an increasing number of industrial and technology-based companies. As the county grows and evolves, so do its needs for effective, up-to-date public-safety equipment and services.

Scott County 9-1-1

Scott County’s E9-1-1/GIS Department is located in Gate City, the county seat. The agency provides dispatching for the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the Gate City and Weber City police departments, seven fire departments, three rescue agencies, the Department of Forestry, and the Department of Game and Wildland Fisheries. The PSAP also handles the county’s 9-1-1 calls.

Scott County radio technician Chris Harmon was very involved in the project to install the center’s new dispatch system. He says that the age of their previous system was one of the main reasons they decided to buy a new one.

“Our old system was way outdated and was costing us considerable time and money,” he says. “It was becoming more and more difficult to find replacement parts for it, and repair costs were going up. We also had deepening concerns about its reliability. To make matters worse, there was only one vendor who worked on the system, and he was in North Carolina. If we had a problem, sometimes he’d show up, and sometimes he wouldn’t.”

“There was something going wrong all the time,” adds Scott County 9-1-1 director, Janice “Tutti” Jennings. “We really needed a system we’d be able to count on that would also be compatible with emerging technologies.”

Two-Way recommends MAX Dispatch

To find a new dispatch system, Scott County sought the advice of their local radio service provider, Two-Way Radio. With offices in Bluefield, Bristol, Wytheville, Beckley, and Wise, Virginia, Two-Way Radio provides communications equipment sales, installation, and service to customers throughout southwestern Virginia and into Tennessee.

Two-Way Radio suggested that Scott County install Zetron’s MAX Dispatch as their new system. Sam Vincill is the shop manager for Two-Way’s Bristol office. He says he recommended MAX Dispatch both because of the good things he was hearing about the system and his positive experiences with Zetron.

“The customers we work with appreciate the fact that Zetron provides a good product they can count on,” he says. “The better and longer the equipment works, the better the customer feels. And Zetron does what it takes to bring that about. They are as interested as I am in taking care of the customer.”

Scott County was pleased that Two-Way Radio would be in charge of purchasing, installing, and servicing their system. “We know from our history with Two-Way that they’re very responsive, and we can trust what they say,” says Harmon. “Their office is also close to us, so they can be here quickly if and when we need them.”

“Plus, not only is MAX Dispatch is easy to use,” Jennings adds, “but its screens could be set up to mimic our old ones. This would make the transition to the new equipment easier for our dispatchers, which is critical because they have an important job to do. We want to limit the impact of change on them as much as we can.”

The decision was finalized, and a four-position MAX Dispatch system was ordered for Scott County and shipped to Two-Way Radio’s office in Bristol, VA.

‘We tried to break it’

Once the equipment arrived, the next step involved setting up and configuring it at Two Way Radio’s office before taking it to the 9-1-1 center.

“When I’m working with public safety, I have to be sure that the system’s going to work the way I want it to,” Vincill explains. “It isn’t leaving the shop until I feel confident with how it’s behaving. So with the help of Zetron’s engineers, we set the system up here at the shop, and played with it. We tried to break it. We made up scenarios and took it through its paces—what if this happens, what if that happens, what does it do here, what does it do there? We did this until we were satisfied with how it was operating. I give Zetron’s technicians a thumbs up,” he adds. “They’re top notch. I deal with a lot of people in tech support, and you can’t beat Zetron.”

During the staging process, technicians from Two-Way Radio also talked with each dispatcher about what they did and didn’t want in their screen layouts. The technicians then used the information to further refine the screens. This helped ensure that the screens would accurately reflect the dispatchers’ day-to-day needs and preferences.

No crying in dispatch

When the staging was completed, the system was taken to the 9-1-1 center to be installed, the technicians ran the old and new systems in parallel and changed over to the new consoles, two at a time.

“Once the installation was done, they cut over to the new system, and the old system was removed put in the trash,” says Harmon. “We didn’t cry at all when it left. Neither did our dispatchers.”

‘A five-star system’

Scott County’s MAX Dispatch system has now been in place long enough for Jennings, Harmon, and the agency’s dispatchers to get familiar with it and appreciate what it has to offer.

“It’s very reliable,” says Harmon. “With the old system, I often got calls for help in the middle of the night. I haven’t gotten a call about the new MAX Dispatch system since it was put it. I also like how redundant it is. Each console has two network ports, so if one goes down, the other backs it up. That is awesome!”

“We love MAX Dispatch ,” adds Jennings. “Because it’s so flexible, we’ll be able to expand it very cost effectively if we need to. Two-Way Radio did a great job helping us research, purchase, and install the system. It’s working so well for us. We’d recommend MAX Dispatch to anyone. It’s a five-star system.”

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