Articles

Fiber Optic System Proves Most Reliable for Connecting Pennsylvania County 911 Centers

Attempting to respond to a trend by federal officials pushing for more regional approaches to emergency communications, a local task force if striving to combine more services.

by Kathy Mellott, The Tribune-Democrat / June 1, 2015

(TNS) --  A fiber optic line that started out to be a backup to a microwave system is proving more dependable than the wireless system, said an official of Cambria County Department of Emergency Services in Pennsylvania.

“This is the project we’ve been working on for about two years,” said Robbin Melnyk, deputy director of emergency services and 911 coordinator. “Our phone systems will be able to back another county up.”

The Cambria County commissioners approved the Dark Fiber License Agreement with Sunesys LLC to provide the fiber optics facilities for the emergency service department at a cost of $150 per month.

The full total is a monthly rate of $300, but half the cost is being paid by Westmoreland County, which will provide backup for Cambria, she said.

Commissioners agreed to the 20-year license agreement, a time longer than most commitments, but one required by Sunesys, said county Solicitor Thomas Leiden.

It is all part of the Region 13 multi-county emergency services network in the western part of the state, a group established by the federal Department of Homeland Security, and is available at a lower rate based on the length of the agreement, he said.

The actual link runs from the Lower Yoder Township tower to the Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe, a project costing $300,000, Melnyk said.

“It was paid for by Region 13 Task Force funds and came at no cost to the county,” she said.

Attempting to respond to a trend by federal officials pushing for more regional approaches to many things, including emergency communications, the task force if striving to combine more services.

As a result, Melnyk said: “It is in use everyday. The brains of our 911 phone system is located in Westmoreland County.”

It is shared by Westmoreland, Indiana, Somerset and Cambria counties.

The Cambria 911 system will continue to have the 3-foot dish on top of the center’s building, located in the 400 block of Candlelight Drive, Ebensburg, providing wireless microwave service, but the hard line, in most cases, is proving to be more reliable, she said.

“We needed a backup, and the fiber is more reliable,” she said.

Cambria is part of the Region 13 CounterTerrorism Task Force, a federally funded initiative that encompasses all counties in western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh.

©2015 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.