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Morgan County, Ohio, is a rural area with a small population and little fiber optics access. However, Morgan County has the most advanced 911 system for counties around.
David Bailey, a volunteer fire fighter there, was the chairman of the technology committee and the mayor of the largest municipality in Morgan County when it installed its first 911 system, E911. That E911 system was proprietary and not standards-based. It was also incapable of upgrading to the newest version of the system, Next Generation 911 (NG911). Two years ago, Morgan County lost support for its E911 system and began looking for an alternative.
Bailey wasn't interested in finding a system that was simply ready for NG911. He wanted his county to take this opportunity to actually move to the next generation. "Why not move forward and advance to a standards-based system all in one step?" he said.
Bailey has been a volunteer fire fighter for 40 years and has a lot of experience dealing with emergencies in Morgan County. He remembers when Morgan County was still using E911, a woman and her daughter got lost on a hiking trail outside of town and called 911 for help. However, it was raining and the pair was in a heavily wooded area, making it harder to find them with a global information system (GIS). It took 24 hours for the E911 system to locate them, which meant a long, sleepless night in the cold and the wet. With the NG911 system, Bailey is certain it would have only taken minutes to find the missing mother and daughter.
VoIP more efficient for Next Generation 911
In February 2013, Morgan County selected General Dynamics as its NG911 provider. General Dynamics, an Oracle Gold Partner, contracted to Oracle to provide the Oracle Communications Session Border Controller. According to Bailey, Morgan County chose General Dynamics because it was the only company that could provide the "total package" of wireless, wired, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and cloud-based calling. Morgan County had four days of testing before rollout, and its cutover date for the NG911 system on July 9, 2014.
The session border controller is an application responsible for managing signaling, as well as setting up, conducting, and disconnecting calls and other media. The Oracle Communications Session Border Controller minimizes service overloads and denial-of-service attacks, and routes around equipment or trunk failures. In the last 10 years, telecommunications has moved away from voice-transmission-only to a data-heavy network, which makes VoIP more efficient, said Chris King, senior director of product marketing for Oracle Communications The session border controller allows for the safe and secure scaling of the network and makes sure that packets transmitted through the network are routed securely.
The session border controller has another application that is particularly important to a 911 system like Morgan County's. The county has two different fiber optic groups for NG911, one in the fire station and one in the sheriff's office. The two buildings are near each other and have a redundant fiber optic cable running between them. The session border controller routes packets to one site or another. This means that if the fire station is receiving too many calls, the session border controller can route some of those calls to the sheriff's office. Furthermore, Morgan County can alternate which site acts as the primary one for receiving calls.
Victim locations and texts offer more options
Bailey described the advances in GIS mapping as "a life-saving item in of itself." GIS mapping allows the 911 operator to see from where an emergency call is coming. Back when Morgan County was still using E911, this was only available from standard telephone carriers. A VoIP call carried by Time Warner, the leading cable company in Morgan County, would not provide a map. Furthermore, with E911 the operator had to wait until the end of the call to find out the caller's location, losing valuable time when sending help. With NG911, the location shows up right away.
However, the item Bailey is most proud of for NG911 is that the system can now accept text messages. He explained that with NG911 accepting texts, people who have difficulty hearing or speaking can now contact 911 in an emergency. The session border controller automatically routes text messages to the site that is set up to receive them. "We're doing the right thing for the community," he said.
Bailey said that in the time Morgan County has been using the NG911 system with Oracle's session border controller, they have had no problems. Now, Bailey travels around the state of Ohio and demonstrates GIS mapping and the other functions of NG911 to emergency services colleagues in other counties.
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