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911 Upgrades, Redundancies Planned for New York County

Beginning in January, Oneida County will be updating its emergency communications infrastructure at a cost of around $500,000.

(TNS) —  With any digital technology, there is a need to upgrade over time.

The emergency communication equipment utilized by county 911 centers is no different.

Also like other technology, the 911 centers' equipment isn't entirely immune to problems: Power outages, connectivity issues and damaged equipment can all interfere with callers' ability to reach the right people in an emergency.

"Every system is a little bit different," said Kevin Revere, Oneida County director of Emergency Services. And, "none of this is inexpensive."

Beginning in January, Revere said, Oneida County will begin work on a backup 911 system in which phone lines will be fed to a temporary facility seated in the Oneida County Office building.

"In case of emergency outages, we have a plan," Revere said. "We'll be able to walk in (to the temporary center) and immediately answer emergency calls."

The cost of this is blended in with other communication equipment upgrades, but is estimated to run around $500,000, Revere said.

Madison County also recently announced a number of grants secured for emergency communications improvements.

Among them was a $93,750 grant from the Department of Homeland Security's Statewide Homeland Security Program for funding for communication equipment, cybersecurity firewall and Emergency Operations Center capabilities.

Also, a $782,596 grant from the state Department of Homeland Security for a Land Mobile Radio system and creation of the back-up 911 location at the New York State Police Troop D Headquarters is planned, according to information from Madison County Public Information Officer Samantha Field.

Past problems

On Nov. 1, Montgomery County experienced a problem with its 911 system that prevented AT&T wireless customers from calling 911 from their mobile devices.

"We are working with AT&T to get this problem resolved as quickly as possible," read a news release that day.

AT&T customers were directed to call the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office's main number or drive to their nearest fire department if they needed emergency assistance.

The Sheriff's Office did not immediately return calls this week seeking additional information about the resolution of that problem.

In Oneida County, Revere remember a similar problems with an unusual twist.

In August, mice chewed through phone lines, causing Verizon customers not to be able to contact the local 911. At that time, the 10-digit phone numbers for local police departments that were forwarded to the 911 center were not working.

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol, however, noted that local outages don't happen often, and there are plans in place in the event of a problem.

Comment from AT&T and Verizon were not available in time for this report.

State funding

In mid-October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $45 million in state grant funding spread across the state for emergency communications, helping municipalities expand their emergency response capabilities to enhance public safety operations.

"Emergency communications are vital to ensuring the safety and well-being of New Yorkers," Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a news release. "In addition to state grants provided for county dispatch operations, this funding will further improve emergency response by enhancing communication networks in counties across the state. We're making sure that municipalities have the technology they need to improve emergency systems and operate efficiently."

©2018 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.