Today, the Greater Wasatch Multi-Node Project supports six state-level and local PSAPs covering four counties in Utah, including the Bountiful City Police Department, Greater Salt Lake Unified Police Department and Salt Lake City Police Department.
The Multi-Node Project has two servers, one in Weber County and one in Salt Lake VECC.
“The servers are synchronized images of each other connected with T1 circuits,” Whetsel said. “Because we have a major fault line that runs over half the state, we wanted to create a geo-diverse network that would enable redundancy and resiliency.”
Whetsel said that because Weber County is about 60 miles north of Salt Lake City, it was a logical place to put the second node.
“If a major earthquake should hit, the chances of both of those centers being affected simultaneously is relatively remote,” he said. “And with the multi-node system, if one server goes down, the second server can pick up without missing a beat.”
Collaboration among the partners also generates cost savings through shared resources and equipment.
“Anytime you have multiple PSAPs working together it is a huge benefit because we can share information, training, etc.,” Scarlet said.
The Multi-Node Project also enables “agent roaming,” which lets users share call-taking positions across different PSAPs during times of high-call volume.
“A 911 call taker or dispatcher can log into any shared workstation, at any location, and receive and dispatch emergency calls as if they were at their own PSAP,” Scarlet said. “This collaboration of individual PSAPs and sharing of resources is unprecedented in Utah.”
Challenges and Unknowns
Naturally, forging new ground also came with challenges.
“There were a lot of unknowns because this was the first time such a system has been done in Utah,” Scarlet said. “There was a lot of pressure to ensure it succeeded. We had a great deal of confidence in the vendors, but the pressure was there.”
Scarlet said the partners agreed early on that this was a long-term relationship and it was imperative they were all on the same page. The team put together memorandums of understanding to establish how all system components would work and formed a governance structure including representatives from each partner agency.
In all, the system took 18 months from initialization to launch. A significant portion of that time was spent establishing network facilities and formalizing contacts with vendors. The three original partners also stipulated that the new system must be cost neutral, which threw another wrench into the plan.
“We couldn’t put new equipment in and have it cost the agencies more than their current budgetary allotment for that service,” Whetsel said. “Trying to maintain cost neutrality and keeping within those fiscal boundaries with the new equipment coming in was a challenge.”