Lowe: 911 center needs updated equipment

PARKERSBURG – Wood County 911 Center Director Randy Lowe said the computer-aided dispatch system at the Central Telecommunications Center needs updated.

“We’ve had the system we have now since 2007 and the hardware is beginning to fail. There are a lot of times we have to reboot and hope it comes back up. The system is just outdated. The software is upgradeable. Our original CAD was given to us; we didn’t purchase it. We are having repeated hardware failures. We are using 2003 Window servers. As of this year, support of that will no longer be available,” Lowe said.

“We can add features to aid public safety agencies and we can cut costs in terms of paper and ink cartridges and help with interoperability with the mobile command vehicle and backup, which we currently don’t have,” Lowe told commissioners.

“When we have an EMS call, the dispatcher prints the report, faxes it, then shreds it, that takes time and money. The new CAD will automatically fax any required reports. We won’t have to continue purchasing 50,000 sheets of paper a year plus ink cartridges. Our system can email important people of an incident; the system would automatically do it for us. We have gotten several requests for a texting component for the volunteer firefighters to help them. Weapons information, currently we have to print it out, fax it and so forth, it would be emailed with the new system so that would also save on costs and time,” Lowe said.

Lowe said 911 would save $1,818, the cost to fax all the papers, and 10 ink cartridges a year that would be saved.

“We would also save 1,667 manhours a year,” Lowe said.

Lowe said he contacted CAD providers and several firms provided demonstrations.

Interact, which serves 22 West Virginia counties, had a cost quote of $416,002. New World was asked for a quote, but none has been provided. Tiburon, which is the current CAD vendor and coordinators with Intrado, the phone vendor being used now at the center, proposed to upgrade the phones, and provide the latest CAD equipment for $381,362.

Lowe noted the center has 15 positions and had seven back in 2007.

The director said the 911 capital equipment reserve fund has $832,672 in it.

“So we would be able to handle the expense,” Lowe said.

“Law enforcement agencies, fire departments, EMS and the prosecutor all support upgrading. I recommend we upgrade with Tiburon. The advisory board has unanimously agreed to upgrade the system also,” Lowe said.

“We have to go out for bid for this,” commissioner Steve Gainer said. Gainer is the commission liaison to the 911 advisory board.

“You have thrown out some numbers. We need to go out to bid then make a recommendation. It seems like you’ve gotten a little ahead,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

Lowe noted Interact is a GSA contract so the number would not change, and the other firm is the only one that can upgrade the phone and CAD at the same time. Anyone else would have to bid for a new phone contract.

Couch suggested Lowe study needs and funds over a 10-year period. “You mentioned earlier funds going into the capital reserve are dwindling, so maybe we need to take a look at that.”

“The bottom line is if the hardware stops, we are back to pen and paper, so there is a certain element of expediting this,” Lowe said.

The commissioners asked Lowe to provide bid specifications for the equipment.