Changes coming to 911, dispatch services

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RANGELY | The small meeting room at Rangely Town Hall was filled to capacity Tuesday with 911 emergency services professionals, police, fire, EMS, town employees, elected officials and concerned citizens to listen to Rio Blanco County Emergency Manager Ty Gates present the “State of 911 Communications.”

In 2018 the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) began negotiations with vendors to develop and install a statewide Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet) system that will accommodate NG911 and geospatial location technology. Centurylink was awarded the contract in January 2019 and released new 911 tariffs and a timetable for installation throughout the State of Colorado. Currently Centurylink is the only company offering 911 service.

ESInet is a separate internet designed for emergency services and is the technical backbone of the NG911 system. ESInet is a critical first step toward Next-Generation 911. The network is broadband-enabled supporting the transmission of video, images and other bandwidth-intensive data files that would choke narrowband systems. ESInets enable the sharing of emergency data between PSAPs—public safety answering point—which is a call center responsible for answering calls to an emergency telephone number for police, fire and EMS services. A PSAP facility runs 24 hours a day passing 911 calls on to public or private safety agencies), expanding the possibilities of collaborative emergency response across the nation. Next Generation 911 modernizes the infrastructure to accommodate how the public communicates today—largely through mobile and digital devices. NG911 allows the public to send digital data from other transmitting devices such as wearable medical devices, vehicle crash data, video, RTT, building security/fire systems and more. NG911 provides many things today’s 911 system cannot.

Rio Blanco County has the smallest population base with two separate 911 Authorities (911 boards), along with being the smallest population base in the state with two dispatch centers (Rangely and Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Department/Meeker) managing an overall small volume of calls. Together both dispatch center budgets total approximately $1,000,000. Together both PSAPS have on hand approximately $250,000.

Gates presented five different options for responding to the required new technologies:

  • Rangely and Meeker PSAPS continue as they are today, as separate entities. Both PSAPS will pay the annual tariff of $18,000 each, for year two forward. Both PSAPS will continue to pay CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) annual maintenance contracts, Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and Meeker $20,000, and Rangely $14,000.
  • Combine the Eastern and Western PSAPS and place a 911 Terminal and Radio terminal in Rangely. The costs associated with this option are as follows for the Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office and Meeker, $140,000. A CPE annual maintenance contract of $20,000. CAD (computer-aided dispatch or computer-assisted dispatch), $180,000 plus purchase and maintenance contract shared cost which would be determined later. Rangely costs would be $35,000 plus share of maintenance contract. Rangely DTR radio console would be $175,000 plus share of maintenance. The cost for a single 911 Board annual tariff fee would be $18,000-$27,000 (two or three sessions).
  • Consolidate both Eastern/Western PSAPs and Meeker/Rangely dispatch centers. Rangely’s cost associated with this option would be user fees (unknown amount set by unknown source). Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office and Meeker 911 CPE $140,000, CAD $180,000. Tariff fees $18,000- $27,000 (# of sessions). Annual maintenance contract CPE $20,000 and radio $18,000. User fees are unknown at this time. In the list of cons for this option is the loss of four full time employees for Rangely but Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and Meeker would need to increase 2-4 full time employees.
  • Combined radio systems connected via county fiber; both dispatch centers remain separate. Costs associated with this option would be $175,000 for Rangely (new radio system). Unknown costs for any VHF system brought into DTR system. Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and Meeker cost $21,000 for radio maintenance contract and unknown IT costs for fiber connection.
  • Contract out all 911 and dispatch services to another agency, which would save money but result in the loss of 10 full time employees and a laundry list of cons including the loss of several services that are currently performed by dispatch services personnel.

In preparation for these changes, over the next 2-3 years the Rio Blanco County GIS will clean and correct addresses that do not conform to standard addressing guidelines in order to meet the standard of 98% accuracy matching addresses and MSAS (Master Street Addressing Guide) Data. A county wide Addressing Ordinance will need to be adopted by both towns and the County to stay in compliance.

At this time no decisions were made. Attendees plan to take the information back to their respective organization or boards and go over their options. The Town of Rangely has hired a third-party consultant, using grant money, to give them a different perspective on this important decision that will need to be made in the near future.

By Roxie Fromang | Special to the Herald Times

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