MAX Dispatch Provides IP Functionality, Interoperability, Narrowbanding Support

With the installation of a new radio network and Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system, Clinton County Pennsylvania’s Department of Emergency Services (CCDES) is now narrowbanding compliant and equipped with a dispatch system that provides updated functionality, improved interoperability and future readiness.

Thanks to a new radio infrastructure and Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system, the Clinton County, Pennsylvania, Department of Emergency Services (CCDES) was ready for narrowbanding well ahead of the FCC’s January 1, 2013 deadline. But they are reaping other important benefits from the equipment as well. Their MAX Dispatch system integrates with their radio network and offers advanced functionality, improved interoperability and an innovative user interface that their dispatchers love. It also provides the CCDES with an IP-based dispatch solution that will serve them well into the future.

Clinton County and the CCDES

Located in north-central Pennsylvania, Clinton is a small, rural county consisting primarily of agricultural and state forest lands. With a population of roughly 39,300 and an area of about 900 square miles, its population density averages only 43 people per square mile.

The Clinton County Department of Emergency Services was formed in 2005 when the county’s 9-1-1 center and Department of Emergency Services merged into a single agency. As the county’s full-service dispatch center and public safety answering point (PSAP), the CCDES oversees the county’s 9-1-1, emergency management, and HAZMAT programs, and provides dispatching for all fire, emergency medical services (EMS) and municipal police departments within the county.

Technologically advanced

Despite the county’s rural character, the CCDES is one of the most technologically advanced PSAPs in the area. Its equipment includes a Zetron Series 3300 VoIP call-taking system that was installed in 2010, a computerized mapping program, and a sophisticated computer-aided dispatch system. Prior to the recent equipment installation, however, the agency’s radio dispatch system wasn’t quite up to par.

“It had reached the end of its life cycle, and we were no longer able to get parts for it,” says CCDES director, Kevin Fanning.

The strategic plan

The project to update the CCDES’s equipment began in 2009 when Clinton County’s long-time technology consultant, MCM Consulting Group (MCM), conducted a needs assessment for the CCDES. The assessment results were used to develop a strategic plan for the CCDES that included a new radio infrastructure and dispatch system, as well as an eventual move to a larger facility.

Choosing MAX Dispatch

After considering a number of dispatch solutions, the CCDES chose Zetron’s Series 4000 dispatch console. Then, procedural issues unrelated to the system caused some delays. By the time the county was ready to resume the project, Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system had been released. This opened up an attractive new possibility.

“We asked Zetron to demo the MAX system for us and the customer,” says Mike McGrady, president and owner of MCM. “Once we saw it, we all felt that MAX was the best choice. It offered updated features and would also integrate easily with the new radio network we were installing to move the CCDES to narrowbanding.”

“Our telecommunicators really liked the MAX system, and so did I,” adds Kevin Fanning. “We liked its functionality and graphical user interface, which is much easier to navigate and use than other systems. Plus, the MAX system came in at a better price than the other IP-based systems we looked at.”

After reviewing all of their requirements and which solution would best meet them, Clinton County decided to go with the MAX Dispatch system.

The solution

The solution for the CCDES would include seven positions: Three would be used for routine dispatching; a fourth would be used for training and for dispatching when the agency got busy. Another position would be set up in the Emergency Operations Center. And the remaining two positions would be kept in storage until the CCDES moves to its new facility in about a year.

The implementation

Local systems integrator and Zetron reseller, TransCore, worked with MCM and Zetron to implement the new MAX Dispatch system.

“The equipment was shipped to TransCore,” says Fanning. “They set it up at their facility, burned it in, and did all the programming. Then they brought it to our center and installed it. Once it was in, we ran the old and new systems in parallel for about six weeks. This gave us time to settle in and get familiar with the new equipment and also gave our dispatchers time to practice and get comfortable with the new console.”

The final cutover to the MAX Dispatch took place in August of 2012.

An easy transition

The MAX Dispatch system helped ease the CCDES’s transition to their new radio network―an eight-site Harris simulcast repeated system.

“We installed the MAX system first and connected it to our existing network,” says McGrady. “But we’d also programmed MAX for the new network. So when we were ready to migrate to the new network, the telecommunicators just had to go to a new screen on their MAX console. The new network was right there and ready to use.”

Into the future

McGrady and Fanning both have good things to say about the project and its outcomes. “The system is working very well,” says McGrady. “And the planning, installation, and acceptance testing with Zetron and TransCore went very smoothly.”

“The MAX system is meeting our goals,” says Fanning. “It supports the new network and can easily expand when we move to our new space. Plus, it has improved our interoperability. Now we can easily patch or create a link between the statewide 800 MHz system and our radio system. The MAX system also allows us to look into the future and explore opportunities for providing redundancy for neighboring counties.”

“Clinton County is a small county that will need to rely on their new equipment for some time to come,” adds McGrady. “We wanted a dispatch solution that would be able to address the CCDES’s needs now and well into the foreseeable future. MAX Dispatch hit the mark.”

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