The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

January 22, 2013

Upgraded 911 call center operational following remodel

ENID, Okla. — Enid, Garfield and Major County 911 Center was updated over the past two months and is ready for the next generation of upgrades when they become available.

The center now has industrial rubberized and sound-dampening flooring, a new ceiling and lights, and was painted. Other upgrades were made to the center’s technology, heating and air and other systems.

“It was the last portion this building that needed to be remodeled,” Chief Brian O’Rourke said. “We wanted to bring that up to speed to be in line with the rest of the building.”

The center was moved into the department’s muster room, but 911 service never was interrupted during the two-month remodel, administrator Lt. Ryan Singleton said.

“It will be more durable,” he said of the remodeled center. “It will hold up to all of the foot traffic and the 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week use it gets.”

The remodel also included upgrades to the 911 system itself.

“We were a stand-alone system, which means all of the data we use is maintained here. Our upgrade took us from a stand-alone to a hosted solution, which means all of our phone lines, trunks, originate in Oklahoma City,” Singleton said. “If there were a disaster or an emergency, it allows us the ability to move to a different location with a laptop, plug into the wall and be up and running in an hour, if not less.”

Enid Police Department is the first in the state to go to such a 911 system, called a micro-data system.

Singleton said upgrades also were made to the department’s voice-logging system. The upgrades include improvements in storing, searching and filing 911 calls and other data that could be included, such as video and text messages.

“We can add pictures, we can add video. We can attach certain things to that phone call. We can compile that all in one folder and send it all at once,” Singleton said. “It allows us to search a phone call for a specific word. It makes it easier to search for it, find it, and cuts down on our time spent on doing that.”

The upgrades have been planned for more than two years.

“We put it off a year for monetary reasons,” O’Rourke said, “so we could get other projects done.”

The majority of the project was paid for with funds from a 911 fee attached to monthly cellphone bills. The rest was paid for with funds paid to the center by the Enid police and fire departments.

The upgrades allows the center to get ahead of standards set by the National Emergency Number Association and Association of Public-Safety Communications Official groups.

“We’re in front of the curve,” Singleton said. “When NENA and APCO set the standards, we’ll be ready for it.”

The center also is ready for digital transmissions, another project that has been in the making for several years.

“We were having issues with radio reception on the west side of town, especially on the hand-held radios, which was a safety issue,” O’Rourke said. “We decided to go digital to make the signal cleaner and with better range.”

The department also is required to switch to narrow-band transmission this year, according to FCC requirements. Having a digital system in place puts the center another step ahead of requirements.

“It allows us to combine multiple frequencies into a trunk system,” Singleton said. “It gives us a lot more functionality and a lot more range on our radio system. If we lose one frequency, we’ll still have four others that operate.”

O’Rourke and Singleton said the department will broadcast its digital transmissions in analog as well.

“What the chief has decided to do is simulcast our frequency into analog, so no matter what scanner or radio you might have, you can still hear us and know what’s going on,” Singleton said. “If the department went completely digital, everyone would go dark. There will be no change in anybody wanting to monitor our frequencies.”

“The reason we’re doing that is so the public doesn’t lose the ability to follow our channel,” O’Rourke said.

Switching to a digital system also meant new radios had to be purchased for the department.

Singleton and O’Rourke said tests conducted with the digital radios have been successful, and Animal Control already uses digital radios.

“Our range is incredible,” Singleton said. “It’s a lot cleaner. For the handhelds, the range is phenomenal.”

“It is quite an upgrade,” O’Rourke said.

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