Funding Through Centralization and Consolidation

One way governments can maximize 4G application investments is by funding projects that emphasize centralization and consolidation. In each case previously discussed, dollars went further because one system was adopted by multiple agencies that shared the costs. In September 2006, four counties in western Massachusetts, including Franklin County, collaborated to install a centralized system of technologies. The consortium enabled participating agencies in the region to share key emergency event data. The counties received money from the Western Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council to fund the endeavor. Massachusetts has five regional Homeland Security Advisory Councils, each of which organizes federal homeland security funds for its members. In September 2008, Franklin County hired an IT public safety consultant to advise on how to further its efforts. They moved forward with plans to create an interoperable system to share between all emergency services in the county including police, fire and emergency medical services. The system will allow a central dispatcher to see real-time snapshots of events and resources, and coordinate the efforts of multiple departments. The new system will facilitate police records management, incident recording and arrest documentation. The package also will include fire records management with access to building blueprints, preplanning documents, mobile data, field reporting data and information about available personnel.

Franklin County will install the software on one server that will cover 20 jurisdictions. By avoiding the cost of 19 additional servers and software to cover all the jurisdictions independently, the county will save 95 percent of the originally foreseen cost. The software vendor will only need to support one machine, therefore lowering support costs as well. The joint arrangement connects several communities to equipment they couldn’t afford on their own. The county will gain additional efficiencies and cost savings once it consolidates multiple dispatch centers into one center for the region. A savings in hardware and physical building sites is also expected.

Because the new architecture is centralized and virtual, dispatchers will be able to work from less expensive remote desktops. Each desktop may be a fraction of the cost of a full workstation. The difference could be that of a $500 desktop instead of a $2,000 workstation. Thousands of dollars in savings are expected for each agency. The central server should allow hardware cost savings for field workers.

In another example of consolidation and centralization, Palm Beach County, Fla.’s system will record 911 calls centrally on two recorders, eliminating the need for 20 additional recorders (one for each public safety answering point). The recorders cost $150,000 each plus annual maintenance and support costs. As the county must replace the recorders every five years, it will save more than $3 million every five years.

Honolulu is freeing up money by consolidating its traffic management system with Hawaii’s traffic management system, first responder dispatch center and Department of Emergency Management. Honolulu also is adopting the same enterprisewide emergency response system Virginia uses. The Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response (VIPER) is a GIS-based system that integrates camera systems, disaster scenarios and first responder location tracking. Field officials use this data when responding to car accidents, disasters, crimes and toxic chemical spills. The VIPER approach is growing in popularity in states and counties across the country, including Vermont.