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Recording Solutions: The Collaboration of Small Agencies Can Yield Big Results
Author: Bill Pryor, Director of Public Safety, Verint Systems
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content
While many larger agencies are sufficiently funded to provide the advanced technological resources needed to serve citizens of a large municipality, smaller agencies are rarely capable of providing the same state-of-the-art resources for their constituencies. In fact, smaller municipalities have experienced even greater struggles for the last several years due to decreased government funding at the federal, state and local levels. And, with more Americans opting for wireless—rather than wired—phone service, there has been a decrease in the revenue generated from the federally-mandated 9-1-1 tax on landline phone service.
As a result, agencies and their PSAPs in more rural areas are often forced to spend large sums of money — or forgo making large investments all together. However, many forward-thinking municipalities have started working together, pooling their budgets to implement the infrastructure or technology that they could not otherwise afford. Through collaboration, agencies in Minnesota - as well as Texas, California and Colorado - profited by leveraging one system for multiple agencies through cost-sharing technology acquisitions.
For example, several agencies in Minnesota — representing 19 counties and a large city — recently implemented a relatively new, unique radio recording solution. In October 2012, this consortium announced the implementation of a powerful call recording solution that has enhanced emergency response and public safety operations for the entire region. The solution is comprised of two redundant trunked loggers and local recorders, enabling each city and county to combine administrative and position recordings with access to the shared radio system.
Why are these advanced radio recording systems so important? First, they deploy an advanced, digital multimedia recording retrieval and quality assurance solution to enhance the performance of emergency response, public safety and control room operations with superior security, reliability and scalability. Capable of capturing audio, video, text, telematics, maps and other data across a range of communications channels, the advanced radio recording systems aid in improving performance, incident reconstruction and liability management. Additionally, they enable compliance with best practices and government mandates on call handling evaluation and reporting, including those required by forthcoming Next Generation 9-1-1 standards.
Initially, the Minnesota agencies sought an individual radio recorder for each of the 20 affiliated cities/counties; however, that approach would have required a significant investment for each municipality. Instead, they ultimately implemented a shared resource approach which achieved all of their objectives at a fraction of the cost, providing significant cost savings. As a result, other agencies in Minnesota saw the benefits of the collaboration and decided to create their own partnership, enabling each of the two regions to serve as a backup to the other. National leaders at the forefront of this collaborative resource approach, agencies in Minnesota have identified a way to leverage one system across multiple agencies by sharing the resources and the cost.
But they’re not alone. Smaller cities and counties in Colorado, California and Texas have also identified ways to work together to share resources — and the cost of those resources. The storyline in all three locations is the same: they each experienced a need to record a narrow base of on-premise recordings, and, as a result, they all implemented centralized radio resources. The Texas agency shares a redundant, enterprise-class 9-1-1 switch and host remote recording. The group in California has two, main radio recorders that capture calls covering eight different county PSAPs. In Colorado, the consortium has pooled resources for a shared host remote 9-1-1 and a shared countywide radio solution.
So, what are the benefits for these regions to share these kinds of resources? The obvious primary reason is significant cost savings. Technology can be costly. By merging resources and sharing the costs, multiple agencies can benefit from implementing technology that, individually, they otherwise could not afford. But the benefits extend beyond cost. In the event that one agency goes offline, other agencies can serve as a backup facility. Additionally, ensuring the security of sensitive data is a concern of most emergency call centers. Therefore, many vendors offer solutions that enable PSAPs to maintain sole authority over their own recordings, preventing sensitive data from being accessed by other cooperating agencies. Through collaboration, smaller PSAPs can band together to form enough critical mass in their operations that they can take advantage of newer, costlier infrastructure that serves a greater geographical area and, therefore, a larger population. By pooling their resources, they make better buying decisions, better technology decisions and maintain their autonomy while optimally leveraging their resources.
Agencies today are looking to save money any way they can. Budgets continue to thin with each cycle, and government funding continues to wane. While some municipalities may pause at the idea of sharing resources, it has proven to be a successful way for agencies in smaller communities to provide the same level of advanced, sophisticated service as those in larger communities, without the burden of the same expense. Agencies like those in Minnesota, Texas, California and Colorado have identified ways to ensure the security of sensitive data while leveraging one system across multiple agencies. Collaboration of smaller agencies is the key to yielding big results in those communities.
Vendor’s Corner is a guest column about product and vendor issues and solutions. Bill Pryor is the director of public safety at Verint Systems. He has been in the public safety communications industry for more than a decade, holding executive level positions with Dictaphone, Mercom and Verint. He is a regular speaker and panelist at public safety events, including during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International’s NG-9-1-1 technology impact round table discussion and multiple local APCO shows. Bill is a frequent contributor to public safety publications and is also active in several industry groups, including the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). See: verint.com