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Trade :Galveston County Emergency Communication District

Galveston County Emergency Communication District

The Galveston County Emergency Communication District is a world-class provider of Enhanced 9-1-1 Service dedicated to providing and improving a reliable emergency communication network to the citizens of Galveston County. The District’s services include state-of-the-art emergency service radio communications, Enhanced 9-1-1 telecommunication service. For  more information, visit www.galco911.org.

Challenge
When it comes to community emergency response, there’s no margin for error. The Galveston County Emergency Communication District (GCECD) is responsible for the county’s 911 service and fields more than 193,000 calls each year. GCECD is composed of eight Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) each of which, under the district’s legacy communications architecture, functioned as a standalone center. Deputy Director Jack Wilkins explains, “Each had to be individually maintained and administered. This meant time-consuming road trips to each site and undercut efficiency.”

By combining these PSAPs into a more effective, virtual network, the district stood to reduce downtime and improve meantime to restoration. At the same time, it would gain operational efficiencies and reduce costs, saving taxpayer dollars. Finally, it would also benefit from an adaptable platform that it could build on in response to future needs.

Executive Director Bobby Wright explains, “When someone calls for help, it’s the most important call they make. The equipment ensures that the call goes through; we ensure that the people are going to get the response they deserve. This lets us sleep at night.”

Yet the public safety domain is traditionally very cautious about embracing new, unproven technology. But GCECD realized that Intelligent Communications technology had come of age and held the answer.

So, instead of opting for what Wilkins called another “forklift solution” – removing one solution and replacing it with a similar one – the district shifted its paradigm. It sought a resilient, redundant IP backbone that would meet its criteria for survivability and reliability; an open standards platform that enables new services to be added easily and cost-effectively.

Solution
According to Wilkins, “With our new, flexible VoIP-based system, in the event of an emergency, we now can relocate our dispatchers to other locations, perhaps hundreds of miles away, where they can log in as if they were at their own station.”

The Avaya IP Telephony architecture also helps to enable the district to realize efficiencies in both maintenance and administration. Since all eight PSAPs are now networked together, call overflow can be directed from a single, central administrative position. Map upgrades are now also handled centrally from a single location. “All eight PSAPs can be upgraded simultaneously – another tremendous timesaver,” Wright said.

Similarly, maintenance is now centralized and increases efficiency, with Avaya Integrated Management and Avaya Proactive IP Support. Thanks to these remote maintenance capabilities, a technician no longer has to drive out to a site every time troubleshooting is required.

“With the Avaya solution, many problems are resolved before people even know that there’s an issue. Moreover, since there now are just two centralized servers for the whole system instead of one at each PSAP, there is less equipment to maintain and therefore fewer potential opportunities for breakdowns. Less equipment also drives cost down, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars,” Wright said.

Wilkins noted that call tracking is also now more comprehensive thanks to a centralized repository that gives the total call volume. “Before, call tracking was done on a PSAP-by-PSAP basis,” he said. In order to get the “big picture,” they had to compile the individual results – a tedious process.

Avaya’s multiple layers of redundancy helps to ensure business continuity in the event of a crisis. The main site is equipped with redundant Avaya servers and gateways. Each remote site has local survivability to protect them against potential WAN outages. So, when call volumes spike or locations have to be evacuated, 911 calls are automatically rerouted to other centers. In addition, Avaya Application Enablement Services integrate with Tel Control, Inc.’s (TCI’s) Intelligent Workstation to deliver critical caller location detail with each 911 call. A member of the Avaya DeveloperConnection program, TCI specializes in Enhanced 911 solutions.

Applications and Services
• Avaya MultiVantage® Communications Applications
• Avaya Communication Manager
• Avaya Integrated Management
• Avaya S8700 Media Server
• Avaya S8300 Media Server in LSP Mode
• Avaya G700 Media Gateway
• Avaya G650 Media Gateway
• Avaya G350 Media Gateway
• Avaya 4600 Series IP Telephones
• Avaya Application Enablement Services
• Avaya Global Services Product Support
• Avaya Proactive IP Support
• 911 Intelligent Workstation (TCI)

Results
• Helps to ensure business continuity: In the event of a prolonged power outage or natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood, GCECD dispatchers can log into their stations from external locations. This ensures continued operations even if a PSAP must be closed. Citizens will likely appreciate the added reliability.

• Provides roadmap to the future. The Avaya solution has the potential benefit of maximizing GCECD’s return on investment by enabling it to build on its existing communications infrastructure as it migrates to future technologies.

• Reduces costs: Eliminating the need for multiple servers for each location can lead to significant cost savings for GCECD. Additional savings are expected to come from more efficient maintenance and administration, and such software upgrades as map locators.