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Contract to build Next Generation 911 network awarded


Contract to build Next Generation 911 network awarded

CAMP MURRAY, WA – The Washington State E911 Coordinator’s Office has awarded a new contract to Comtech TCS, which will build a new Next Generation 911 Emergency Services IP network for Washington state.

The company, known locally simply as TCS, was the successful bidder for a five-year contract valued at approximately $45 million. The company recently merged with Comtech Telecommunications Corporation. Washington State E911 Coordinator Ziggy Dahl said the contract was a “great value” for Washington state and has the potential to save the state money in the coming years.

Washington state rolled out the first Next Generation 911 Emergency Services IP network, called the ESInet, in 2009 with CenturyLink as the contracted provider. Dahl said that the network was built over an existing legacy 911 structure and has served residents very well through the years. This new system, dubbed ESInet II, which will transport calls from the call-maker to the call-taker, will be custom designed to make sure it’s accessible to all types of devices/methods for contacting 911, is compatible across the state as well as interstate and is highly resilient, reliable, secure, simple and cost-effective. The new system will also support the current legacy systems until they are fully upgraded. The funding for the improvements come from existing taxes on phones.

“Historically, vendors would tell us what they could offer,” Dahl said. “But that’s not the way we did it this time. Instead, we issued a request for proposal in which we told them exactly what we wanted. If there’s a way for someone to make a 911 call, we want the system to handle it.”

The new network will have enhanced call type capabilities and allow 911 centers to be able to get ”voice, text, data, imagery and whatever comes next,” Dahl said. Counties that operate the public safety answering points (PSAPs) are in the process of modernizing their call handling equipment in order to take advantage of the new technology.
The new system will also be able to help call-takers figure out where people are calling from and will include call routing validation and geolocation.
As of July 2016, just eight of the state’s 39 counties were accepting text messages to their 911 centers with other counties testing or waiting for state funds to help make the transition. Even those counties accepting text-to-911 today – Grant, Thurston, Clallam, Jefferson, Pacific, Snohomish, Kitsap and Spokane counties – still can’t accept photos or even emojis because the network to the 911 centers can’t handle it.

The new system should also end up saving taxpayers money. Dahl notes that the state currently gets billed by the state’s 25 landline vendors to provide 911 services to those who still have traditional telephone service. There’s a potential to save millions of dollars by no longer relying on the vendors to repopulate a database every year when the new system, coupled with county geospatial upgrades, will be able to help find someone’s location better than the legacy system.
The new system will also have enhanced network performance and monitoring displays.

“We don’t have that today,” Dahl said. “If our vendor doesn’t tell us what’s happening, we have no idea. Then, we get calls from public safety answering points saying, ‘Why aren’t we getting 911 calls?’ Then we go ask and find out. With this new system, we will have visual displays that show us the network and the traffic flows. We’ll be able to see something going on, probably before the news gets out. If we see a large influx of 911 calls in an area, we’ll know something is going on, or if we see no 911 calls in an area, we’ll know there’s a problem there. That’s part of what we’re getting in this new system.”    

Dahl thanked the previous contractor, CenturyLink, for their service over the past seven years.

“We appreciate the partnership we have had with CenturyLink,” Dahl said. “They built an excellent a network that delivers an average of 6.4 million calls per year, was the first in the nation of its scale, and put us in a great position as we move to a next generation system.”

Comtech’s press release should be located here:
More information about the state E-911 program:

Press Contact: Karina Shagren
Phone: (253) 512-8222

Program Contact: Sigfred “Ziggy” Dahl
Phone: (253)512-7468