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The Power of Zetron’s MAX Dispatch Portal

With three new MAX Dispatch systems connected through Zetron’s MAX Dispatch Portal, the public-safety and law-enforcement agencies at Guilford, Connecticut, are equipped for interoperability, redundancy and easy resource sharing.

There are good reasons why the town of Guilford, Connecticut, recently took steps to ensure that its public-safety agencies are equipped with effective, reliable communications systems. For one thing, the area is visited regularly by hurricanes and storms like Irene, Sandy, and nor’easters that blow in from the North Atlantic. But even when the weather is mild, Guilford’s agencies must be able to respond quickly to emergencies and the routine requests for help they get on a daily basis.

This is why in early 2014 Guilford’s fire department, police department, and emergency operation center (EOC) each replaced their aging dispatch equipment with Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system. Not only are the agencies now equipped with state-of-the-art, IP-based dispatch systems, but the three systems are linked to each other through Zetron’s MAX Dispatch Portal. This allows them to monitor, access, and share radio resources and to even take over for each other if operations at any of the three agencies are interrupted.

Guilford, Connecticut

Located on shores of Long Island Sound, Guilford, Connecticut, is a residential and summer community with a population of about 23,000. Named one of the top 100 places to live in the U.S. by Money magazine in 2005, it is also one of the more historic towns in the U.S. It is said to have the third-largest collection of historic homes in New England and the oldest stone house in North America. It is also home to one of the few houses remaining of the original signers who settled the area in 1639.

Public safety in Guilford

Guilford’s routine public-safety and law-enforcement services are handled by its fire and police departments. As the town’s 9-1-1 center and public safety answering point (PSAP), the fire department answers 9-1-1 calls and provides dispatching for fire and emergency medical services (EMS). The police department provides its own dispatching. Guilford’s EOC is activated only when the town experiences a major event or disaster that requires a more extensive response.

Why upgrade?

Even though Guilford takes pride in its history, when it comes to protecting the safety and well-being of its citizens, the town is firmly rooted in the present and looking toward the future.
So when its public-safety officials recently decided to upgrade the dispatch systems at its fire department, police department, and EOC, they also decided to install the same system at each site and link the systems over an IP network. “We were looking for a solution that would improve our interoperability and redundancy, allow us to quickly share radio resources, and improve the EOC’s ability to respond to larger-scale emergencies when necessary,” says Captain Mike Shove of the Guilford Fire Department.

Tactical Communications and Zetron

To get the process underway, Guilford called upon their longtime local equipment and maintenance provider, Tactical Communications. Tactical Communications provides radio communications systems to public-safety and law-enforcement agencies and governmental, industrial, institutional and business customers throughout eastern and southeastern Connecticut. Tactical would help obtain and implement the new equipment and the infrastructure required to support it.

Tactical Communications president, Dave Moffat, says that Guilford’s history of positive experiences with Zetron was a key reason why they chose Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system for the project. “Guilford’s fire department had been using Zetron’s Series 4000 for close to 20 years,” says Moffat. “The system had run extremely reliably. So upgrading to Zetron’s newest solution was a nearly automatic choice and a testament to a very reliable product. In addition, being able to connect the three MAX Dispatch systems through Zetron’s MAX Dispatch Portal would provide the redundancy Guilford was seeking.”

Implementation and training

The project for Guilford included a two-position MAX Dispatch system for the fire department, a two-position system for the police department, and a one-position system for the EOC.
The first step of the process involved staging the equipment at Tactical Communications office. “We built, programmed, configured, and ran the systems in our office for about a month before installing them onsite,” says Moffat. “Early on, we also brought in representatives from each of the agencies in order to customize the screens to suit their different operations, requirements, and preferences. Once all of that was done, we brought the dispatchers in and trained them on the equipment. We were able to simulate dispatch operations as well as the interoperability between the sites.”

When the setup, configuration, and training were completed, the systems were installed at their respective sites and brought online one at a time, starting with the fire department and ending with the EOC. The MAX Dispatch Portal was then implemented. It utilizes a “node” installed at each site that connects the systems over IP and enables the flow of information between them.
Moffat says that even though the project involved three systems at three separate sites, the final implementation went perfectly. And because the dispatchers had plenty of time to learn the new equipment while it was being staged, their transition to the new live systems was seamless.

Important new features

Guilford’s MAX Dispatch systems are already delivering many of the features and functionality for which they were chosen. But they are also providing additional important benefits that the customer hadn’t anticipated. “We’re using the systems’ auxiliary I/O capability to monitor the health of the microwave system and the integrity of the microwave paths,” says Moffat. “If anything goes wrong, an alert will pop up on the dispatch console.”

Another major improvement is the plug-and-play mobility of the EOC system. “The EOC console is connected and kept on a cart so it’s current with any updates that are propagated throughout the system,” says Shove. “When we need to use it, we simply roll it into the EOC or any other space where we need it to operate and hook it up, and it’s ready to go.

Yet another feature that’s a favorite with the dispatchers is the intercom that is shared among all three sites. “They can communicate without ever having to pick up the phone,” says Moffat. ”This is very convenient and especially useful when a situation involves more than one agency.”

A mouse-click away

The outcome of the project for Guilford has been overwhelmingly positive. They now have updated equipment that allows each agency to work independently or together, as the situation demands. The solution is IP-based, able to support emerging technologies, and gives them great flexibility. But perhaps most important of all, it allows the three agencies to support each other in a way that was not previously possible. “The new solution ensures that, if one site’s operations become unavailable,” says Shove, “there are two others equipped to take over with just the click of a mouse.”

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