January 1, 2011
As the third largest county in the continental United States, Okanogan County spans 5,281 square miles of rugged north-central Washington terrain that includes parts of the Cascade Range and the Columbia River Basin. With a population of about 40,000 dispersed over such a large area, effective distance communication is critical at times of emergency. Headquartered in Okanogan, the county seat, the Emergency Management Department operates the county’s 911 communications center, receiving all 911 calls and dispatching all first-responders to
“Our number-one focus is life-safety,” says Emergency Manager Scott Miller of the Okanogan County Sheriffs Office. “We cannot afford to have our radio systems go down at any time.”
The county’s Emergency Management Department built it’s emergency communications capabilities around a Telex C-Soft platform five years ago. The 911 facility is equipped with the IP-based C-Soft radio dispatch and signaling console as well as 25 IP-223 dual IP remote adapter panels, which handle conversion between digital and analog signals. The system also includes a number of DSP-223 tone-remote adapters, as well as a Telex Network Recorder, which performs real-time call recording, supports remote monitoring, and includes a searchable database for storage and retrieval of call information.
“We handle all of our public safety radio communications via the C-Soft console,” Miller says. “It’s how we communicate with all first responders in the county. The 911 call comes in, the dispatcher takes the call, determines the nature of the problem, and then uses C-Soft to either communicate directly with a specific first responder unit, such as a nearby ambulance, or to send out a general page. The dispatcher tells the responding unit what they know, and the unit gives the dispatcher status updates as they respond. All of this back-and-forth with the radios that transmit over the air and talk to the Kenwood field radios is routed through C-Soft and the IP-223s.”
The C-Soft system supports flexible signal routing and the tailoring of user interfaces to custom needs. And with its Radio over IP (RoIP) architecture, all the traffic that would previously have required a multitude of analog audio lines between the dispatcher’s station and the radio transceivers can now be handled over a single CAT-5 Ethernet cable. ROIP also gives the county far greater extensibility to remote locations. “We have a control station up on a mountaintop,” Miller says, “and by putting in a network switch we were able to extend the network to that location via microwave, which is far more reliable than leasing a line.
At the time of the county’s initial purchase, RoIP was still relatively new in the radio dispatch field, which meant that there wasn’t a long track record to go by when selecting a manufacturer. “Looking back,” Miller says, “it’s now clear that we made the right choice. We are very, very pleased with the C-Soft system. It’s been solid as a rock for five years. We’ve had absolutely no problems.”
Miller says that “the system remains state-of-the art because Telex is continually developing the product with updates and advancements that they have not charged us for. Plus, Telex’s support has been outstanding, and we are confident that they will still be here to support us five or ten years down the road.”
The number one advantage Miller points to, however, gets back to the core issue of dependability. “Telex has years of experience at this,” he says, “so they are not just a newcomer working out the bugs as they try to get into a hot new field. In fact, we don’t have any bugs at all in our C-Soft system. It has proven itself to be extremely reliable and stable.”
“The bottom line for us,” Miller continues, “is that we use the C-Soft system in a critical life-safety setting, and we’ve had five years of running 24/7 without a hitch. That’s quite a testament to the system. We would highly recommend it to any other 911 center.”