PEMA Project Will Link 911s in Wyoming, Bradford, Potter Counties

Wyoming County 911 in the Wyoming County Emergency Operations Center (top) will be better connected to Bradford and Potter counties with the installation next year of a new fiber optic line that is part of a much larger Regional Shared Services plan by PEMA to bring 911 centers across the state into sync while saving money and reducing redundancy of services.

Photo and Story by Rick Hiduk

(As published in the Dec. 7 edition of the Rocket-Courier)

As early as 2013, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) realized that advances in technology were outpacing the evolution and efficiency of 911 centers, known technically as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). In an effort to curb redundancy, excessive capacity, and high costs for replacement and maintenance of multiple systems, PEMA issued the PSAP Regional Shared Services Assessment guide.

Last week, the first phase of that plan as it affects Bradford, Wyoming and Potter counties was revealed as the Wyoming County Commissioners approved a grant agreement with PEMA that assures the county’s cooperation with an emergency services interconnectivity project that is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Bradford and Potter counties have signed similar agreements.

The first phase for us is a dedicated fiber connection from here to Bradford County,” Jeff Porter, Wyoming County 911 Director, explained. “There are other projects in the Commonwealth that will tie into that.”

While various elements of the overall plan will be funded separately by county and implemented simultaneously, they are meant to be used in tandem. Wyoming County gets the new phone line, Bradford County gets the new CAD (computer-aided dispatch) and so on, until the groundwork is complete.

Tioga County, geographically situated between Bradford and Potter counties is currently part of a different network, Porter (above, left) related, which is served by different vendors. Nonetheless, in the end, all of the services will be interconnected.

According to Bradford County 911 director Robert Repasky, Bradford County 911 was approved for four of six applications submitted to secure the funding needed to upgrade its CAD system to match those in Wyoming and Potter counties.

Repasky describes the Regional Shared Services Assessment plan as one of the first steps in a Next Generation 911 (NG911) strategy that will be “implemented throughout the Commonwealth in a consistent, precise, standards-based manner while maximizing all available resources.”

The goal is a non-public, private network across the entire Commonwealth that we will own,” Porter stated. Our particular piece should online by the end of 2018.”

The information compiled via the assessment will assist PSAPs in short and longterm planning as they move forward with the design, development and implementation of a foundational IP network backbone,” said Repasky. “It will also allow connection to PEMA and surrounding counties. By doing this project, if (the system in) one county goes down, the other county will be able to seamlessly take the 911 calls and dispatch appropriate agencies.”

The 911 centers of Bradford and Wyoming counties already have a long history of working together and combining resources. Together, they share a lease a tower on Sugar Hill in Wilmot Township, Bradford County that is owned by WVIA television. Wyoming County uses the tower to communicate effectively with Laceyville and the Tuscarora Township area, and Bradford County uses it for communication with Wyalusing and Terry Township.

There are plans to build a new, dedicated tower in the area, with some of the costs to be split between the two counties.

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