Steuben County Saves Lives by Monitoring Remote 911 Dispatch Equipment

Fred Marvin
Fred Marvin,
Steuben County Office of Emergency Services

The Steuben County Office of Emergency Services (SCOES) is responsible for coordinating emergency response agencies to protect those who live, travel, and work in Steuben County, New York. SCOES plans and prepares for the harmful effects of natural and manmade disasters, and they have made it their mission to significantly reduce the amount of losses to the individuals, businesses, and governments in the county and alleviate the suffering associated with the disruption of daily routines.

Fred Marvin is the Radio Technician for SCOES. "I do upgrades or changes inside the T/Mon. The T/Mon sends me text messages and emails, and then if there's an alarm point out at a site, I'm the one that goes there," said Marvin. "I make sure the buttons are punched down correctly, and I make sure the T/Mon operates into the KDA, and anything else like that."

Network Monitoring Saves Lives at 911 Centers

Due to the time-sensitive nature of working in a 911 field, SCOES knew that it was crucial to have a monitoring system in place to ensure that their equipment was functioning properly. "Because we operate in a 911 environment, it is better to know early rather than later if something happens," said Marvin.

Marvin knows that it can mean the difference between life and death for someone; "If they are trying to dispatch fire, EMS, or public safety to an event and the microwave is down, it means the radios at that site can't be operated either."

With multiple sites to monitor, it is crucial for SCOES to have total network visibility. As they quickly found out though, not all monitoring equipment is made with each specific client's needs in mind. "When we put in our 911 center, we had a [legacy] alarm system, which was just LED lights and was cumbersome," said Marvin.

After Deploying T/Mon and KDAs, SCOES Gained Improved Network Visibility

SCOES finally found a solution that gave them better visibility of all their network sites and equipment. "We upgraded to the DPS Telecom equipment," said Marvin. "We use KDA discrete alarm point monitors and I know we've upgraded our T/Mons, so we are using a T/Mon NOC at this time."

"It's always been very reliable. I'm very happy with how the product operates," said Marvin. "It gives us some advanced warning, so we can restore the problem before it becomes life or death."

SCOES utilizes their monitoring equipment in a variety of formats, allowing them to have visibility at different levels in their network. "We are monitoring nine tower sites, plus our 911 center. We use the KDAs with an 8-port analog card, so we are getting analog inputs for generator voltage, and microwaves signal fade," said Marvin. "Discrete alarms might be door entry, or temperature high/low, things like that."

"DPS tech support always makes sure that I'm satisfied with what has been done, or if I have any more problems, they tell me to feel free to call back."

Even while attending DPS factory training, Marvin was able to receive alerts on the status of the remote sites he monitors. "I got some text alerts that said things were happening. So I contacted my supervisors, who are taking the responsibility while I'm out here attending Factory Training," said Marvin. "I told them they might want to check out the equipment, and sure enough, the microwave had gone down."

"It's always been very reliable. I'm very happy with how the product operates," said Marvin. "It gives us some advanced warning, so we can restore the problem before it becomes life or death."

DPS technical support has impressed Marvin. "DPS tech support always makes sure that I'm satisfied with what has been done, or if I have any more problems, they tell me to feel free to call back," Marvin said. "I'm always very happy, very pleased, and it's always been really good."

SCOES Diagram
When an equipment alarm is triggered at one of SCOES radio tower sites, the KDA relays the alarm to the T/Mon. The T/Mon receives the alarm and notifies Marvin that there is a problem.

Now, SCOES Wants to Set Up Even Better Notifications

While the DPS equipment provided greater network visibility for SCOES, they were unaware of all of the capabilities of the KDAs and T/Mon systems. "Because we bought it through another vender initially, they did all the set up and programming and things," said Marvin. "And although I could go in and correct things, I wasn't aware of all the features that were available to me. So I only get alarms, I don't get clears."

The lack of knowledge leaves SCOES vulnerable, possibly overlooking an important alarm. "So because it functions so well and different ones don't contact me, I just assume that it's cleared."

Additionally, lack of function knowledge can lead to frustration for Marvin. "Sometimes I get 105 emails or texts overnight," Marvin said. "Often times, like when the generator runs, I see I lost A/C power, and I see the tower lights go red. I don't need that many notifications."

"I'm definitely going to employ the things I learned."

Marvin Attends Factory Training and Learns Ways to Strengthen SCOES Network

Attending DPS factory training helped Marvin understand the capabilities of the equipment he uses, as well as how to guard against preventable vulnerabilities in the system. "I found out in training that I can get the cleared alarms," Marvin said. "And I'm going to fix that as soon as I get back so I get both the alarm and the clear."

And some other things that were brought out like root alarm filtering; actually qualifying if I get this alarm, that I can add these three underneath there so I only get one alarm instead of all four," said Marvin. "I'm going to use the root system and eliminate that. I'm definitely going to employ the things I learned."

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