(July 13, 2018) Ocean City and Worcester County 911 calls are routed over copper wire — an infrastructure system that is showing its age and has caused outages in the past, Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster told the county commissioners at the beginning of the month, while making a bid to apply for funding to replace the system.

Webster needed the commissioners’ approval to solicit almost $167,000 from the state to add fiber optic cable to the routing system, to provide resiliency and redundancy within the architecture.

“The current configuration has been responsible for at least one Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) outage lasting several hours and also for severely degraded service at the backup PSAP due to aging Verizon copper plan,” the county’s application for the funding reads.

Ocean City is the county’s backup PSAP, and Webster said exposure to the salt air is at least partially responsible for the degraded condition of the wires here.

Webster did not clarify the date and times of the outage for the commissioners.

If all goes well, the new system will be operational sometime next year, Webster said.

The project consists of three parts: installing conduit from the curb to the PSAP technology, positioning new cables between two separate Verizon offices to provide redundancy and systems configuration.

Each of these three parts must be completed for the emergency services department in Snow Hill and the backup office in Ocean City.

 In addition, Webster asked for permission from the commissioners to cancel some of the training courses for the new Harris radios the county is deploying, and using the recovered funds from that training to other portions of the rollout.

“The first element of the proposed change order will provide for replacing aging equipment that connects the county’s paging transmitters that are used for alerting fire and EMS personnel,” Webster wrote in a memo to the commissioners. “Our current paging solution is approximately 13 years old and has begun to suffer reliability issues.”

The equipment purchase in Ocean City would allow the paging system to operate on the fiber optic network, rather than the analog microwave structure currently in use.

“The second element of the proposed change order will provide for pre-construction engineering services for the replacement of the communications shelter located under the Snow Hill water tank,” he wrote. “These service will determine the specific requirements of building and foundation construction, utility routing and cabling from the tank to the new shelter.”

No additional funding for the $5.34 million radio project would be required because of this change.

Both requests passed the board of commissioners unanimously. 

Brian has covered every municipality in Worcester at one time or another, and is one of the longest serving reporters in the region. He covers just about everything. He lives in Snow Hill with his wife, Lora, and two sons, Julian and Grady.

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