SDN Blog

SDN Communications playing key role in updating 911 system

Posted on Monday, March 16, 2015 in Broadband Internet

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Sioux Falls-based SDN Communications is pleased to have an important role in updating the 911 emergency communications network in South Dakota.

During the next few years, SDN will help install the technology to significantly improve the flow of information on the state’s emergency network. Within about three years, people won’t be limited to calling emergency centers. People reporting emergencies on mobile phones also will be able to text information or send photographs and video.

The South Dakota 911 Coordination Board recently contracted for five years with TeleCommunications Systems Inc. (TCS) of Annapolis, Md. to provide and operate the state’s Next Generation 911 system.   TCS is subcontracting with SDN to provide a majority of the network.

'We’re really partnering with the two best companies in a position to bring Next Generation 911 to South Dakota.' - Ted Rufledt

The South Dakota 911 Coordination Board also has contracted with GeoComm Inc. of St. Cloud, Minn. to provide the Geographic Information System component to improve the 911 system’s capability for determining the exact location of emergencies. GIS work has begun.

TCS is expected to begin working in April on improvements at 911 centers. Twenty-nine call centers, including one Sioux Falls, will be part of the statewide network. Four tribal centers also have the option to join.

“Cellphones and other wireless communication devices have made it necessary to implement Next Generation 911 technology,” says Shawnie Rechtenbaugh, Department of Public Safety State 911 coordinator. “The NG911 system will take us into the 21st Century and allow 911 capabilities to evolve with the constantly changing communications technologies.”

Ted Rufledt, Jr, who chairs the 911 Coordination Board, says a decades-old, copper-line network owned by CenturyLink has served the state’s 911 system well.

“But in order for us to move forward and catch up with technology, we have to have a high-speed, highly secure, very redundant, IP-based network,” he says.

That’s the type of fiber network that SDN has been hired to help provide.

“We’re very excited to be working with SDN,” says Rufledt, who is also the deputy director of Pennington County 911 in Rapid City. “We’re not a state with a lot of statewide broadband providers. SDN is a leader. So is TCS. We’re really partnering with the two best companies in a position to bring Next Generation 911 to South Dakota. I just don’t think we could have gotten a better set of partners and vendors for this project.”

Dennis Cromwell, vice president of sales at SDN, says much of the new system will ride on SDN’s existing network. Some new construction is expected to be necessary, however. SDN also will provide data center space for critical components that TCS will use to support its contract, Cromwell says.

'The reliability of the network is absolutely critical. The ability to reach into rural SD is crucial.' - Dennis Cromwell

“We’re very happy to have been selected by TCS to be the subcontractor to provide this connectivity,” Cromwell says. “It shows we’re a reliable, trusted partner for critical connectivity across the state.”

Building a network for about 30 locations is a pretty routine for SDN, but the nature of the 911 project makes the work extremely important, Cromwell says.

“The reliability of the network is absolutely critical. The ability to reach into rural SD is crucial,” he says.

Getting all the emergency centers in the state tied into the new system probably will take 24 to 36 months, Rechtenbaugh says. She, too, says she is delighted that SDN is assisting in the project.

Today’s system is like a series of islands, with some overlap, she says. When the new system is up, all of the state’s 911 centers will be on the same network. That means, for example, that calls to a busy center with a small staff will be routed another, nearby center rather than ring busy.

TCS, which has a $16.4 million contract with the state, vows to provide best-in-class, Next Generation 911 services.

“Our contract with the state of South Dakota is a testament to our track record of successfully empowering public safety entities through the use of new technology for improving emergency 911 services,” says Lynne Seitz, senior vice president of the TCS Safety & Security Group.