E-911 OKs new dispatch system

Published 12:18 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

Shown is a Telex dispatching system. Courtesy photo

Shown is a Telex dispatching system.
Courtesy photo

Covington County E-911 will soon get an upgraded dispatching radio system.

The E-911 board approved a $58,000 purchase to replace the current system, which was put in place in December 1999.

Jay Spurlin of S&P Communication has been working with the board to resolve issues that have arisen due to a combination of an antiquated system and the Andalusia Police Department switching to digital radios.

“Over the last two weeks as a result of APD going digital, our radios, if APD is talking and someone from the SO (sheriff’s office) calls it will lock up or sound like it’s keyed up like the APD is still talking,” said director Kristi Stamnes. “We’ve had to completely turn off APD.”

Stamnes has worked with Spurlin, who has talked with the radio manufacturers to see what could be done.

“What’s happened is this, we put those original radios in December, 1999, and they are 16 years old,” Spurlin said. “We have not upgraded as we should have. It’s not the interface so much now as it is the firmware.”

Spurlin explained that he firmware the APD is using is so much newer than dispatch’s.

Spurlin estimated it would cost $120,000 to replace the entire current system and that the last time lightning struck it cost $50,000.

“We are at a single point of failure,” he said. “If you lose one computer, it’s just gone.”

Spurlin explained that the current computers operate on Windows XP and cannot be repaired.

Additionally, it’s not a simple fix of buying a new computer.

“If you change one, you have to change them all,” he said.

The board had two options:

• First to fix the current firmware and replace nine radios, get new computers, but no new hardware would be $54,000.

• To get a 100 percent IP-based dispatched system and replace everything would be $58,000.

Spurlin said the IP-based system would be fiber optic and would alleviate the problems with lightning strikes.

Additionally, the new system can read all types of radios, so rural fire departments won’t be rushed to upgrade to digital and neither will local law enforcement offices.