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What’s Good for Westbrook Is Good for Falmouth

The public-safety agencies at Westbrook and Falmouth, Maine, both recently upgraded to Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system. The system’s user friendliness and flexibility, and Zetron’s good reputation were just a few of the reasons why they chose the system.

Greg Hamilton was getting nervous.

As the director of the public safety answering point (PSAP) and dispatch center for the City of Westbrook, Maine, he knew that the dispatch system his agency had been using for 10 years was becoming obsolete. If the system were to fail, there was no guarantee he’d be able to obtain the parts that might be required to fix it.

In nearby Falmouth, Maine, Tom Brady was facing a similar situation. The aging dispatch system in the communication center he directs was also no longer supported by the manufacturer.
Both agencies needed new dispatch equipment. And both directors knew that they wanted to obtain Zetron dispatch systems. But each faced the same dilemma: Should they buy and install Zetron’s analog dispatch system? Or would it be better to prepare for the future and choose Zetron’s IP-based MAX Dispatch system?

Because Westbrook was able to secure funding for their project first, they were also the first to answer this question. This gave Falmouth the luxury of waiting to see how things turned out for Westbrook before having to make the decision themselves.

Public safety in Westbrook, Maine

Located in Southwestern Maine, Westbrook has a population of roughly 18 thousand and is considered a suburb of Portland. Its Emergency Communications Center is a certified PSAP that handles 9-1-1 calls for Westbrook and the towns of Falmouth and Yarmouth; it also provides dispatching for Westbrook’s police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) departments.

Good products and a good reputation

Greg Hamilton explains why he was certain that his agency’s next dispatch system should be a Zetron product.

“I wanted our new system to be from a good manufacturer with a proven track record,” he says. “I had used Zetron equipment when I worked in and managed another dispatch center. So I knew Zetron puts out good products and has a good reputation in the industry.”

Choosing MAX Dispatch

To decide which Zetron system to buy—analog or IP-based—Hamilton consulted with Radio Communications Management (RCM). RCM is a Zetron seller with offices throughout Maine. As Westbrook’s radio equipment and service provider, RCM would be obtaining, installing and maintaining the new system for them.

Radio Communications Management president, Scott Rivard, encouraged Hamilton to seize the opportunity to move to IP and install Zetron’s MAX Dispatch. “The industry trend is definitely toward IP,” says Rivard, “and the MAX Dispatch system was getting very positive reviews. I felt that this would be a good choice for Westbrook.”

Hamilton agreed. “I was drawn to the system because it would allow us to customize our screens and name things the way we want to,” he says. “It would grow along with us fairly easily. And RCM would be able to remote in to configure things and diagnose problems without having to send a technician out. This would save us time and money.”

After weighing all the factors, Westbrook decided to purchase and install four positions of Zetron’s MAX Dispatch system.

The installation at Westbrook

Westbrook’s new system was shipped to RCM, where it was set up, tested and configured before being taken to the customer’s site.

“We staged it in our office so we could work out the kinks and make sure that its final installation would go as quickly and smoothly as possible,” says Rivard. “When we took it to Westbrook, all we had to do was run Ethernet cables from the dispatch center to the radio room and plug them in. We paralleled all of the radio channels from the old console to the new one and, for a while, had the systems running side by side.”

One MAX Dispatch console position was set up in the dispatch center so the dispatchers could get familiar with it. During this stage of the project, the dispatchers also gave input that was then used to refine the screen layouts.

After about a week, the three remaining new console positions were installed, the cutover took place, and the old system was removed. The transition was complete.

Backing up Cumberland County

One unique and cost-effective aspect of Westbrook’s installation was the way it was set up to provide backup for the area’s regional PSAP, the Cumberland County Regional Communication Center (CCRCC).

“We were able to use Zetron’s iRIM [Intelligent Radio Interface Module] and two Kenwood radios to put all of Cumberland County’s fire tones and radio channels on Westbrook’s consoles,” says Rivard. “With a simple, low-cost licensing upgrade to the iRIM, we were able to control the Kenwood radio functions directly from the MAX Dispatch consoles. It’s a great cost savings because it makes all of the CCRCC’s channels available and displays them on the MAX Dispatch consoles at Westbrook. And we didn’t have to use a separate radio for every agency the CCRCC supports. If Cumberland County ever has to evacuate their center, they can go to Westbrook and dispatch from there.”

The installation at Falmouth

Tom Brady at the Falmouth Communication Center was also looking for a dispatch system that would carry his agency into the future. And he was well aware of the installation at Westbrook. Although his center is not a 9-1-1 answering point, it dispatches police, fire and EMS for the towns of Falmouth and Yarmouth, and fire and EMS for the town of North Yarmouth. “We needed something that would be with us for quite some time,” he says. “And we wanted it to be top-of-the-line equipment based on top-of-the-line technology.”

Brady had been introduced to Zetron’s MAX Dispatch at a public-safety conference and also visited Westbrook to look at their newly installed system. “I liked what I saw,” he says. “MAX Dispatch offered the technology, functionality, and ease of use we were looking for. When we sat down with our equipment provider RCM [the same vendor that supports Westbrook] to discuss whether it would be a good fit for us, they said it was a good way for us to go. Not only does RCM understand our agency and what we need, but they’d just installed the system for Westbrook, so they knew the equipment inside and out.”

Falmouth subsequently purchased two positions of MAX Dispatch. RCM installed it, conducted the training, and removed the old system all within a period of about a week. It was a straightforward, seamless installation.

‘My dispatchers are happy’

Greg Hamilton and Tom Brady both report that their new MAX Dispatch systems are performing just as they’d hoped.

“I’m very happy with MAX Dispatch,” says Hamilton. “I’d certainly recommend it. It’s working very well for our dispatchers, and it has a very small footprint; everything’s about space when you’re talking about a dispatch center.” Hamilton also has kudos for RCM. “Their service has been exceptional,” he says.

“The installation process went really well and didn’t disrupt our operations at all,” adds Brady. “We really like the new system’s flexibility. Also, we’re ready for the future. If we ever need to expand our services, the system has the capacity to support us in that as well.”

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