Next Gen 9-1-1

Scott Haas, director of the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services, second from left, provided a report on a recently awarded grant aimed at the transition to the next generation system for 9-1-1.

CENTREVILLE — In a unanimous vote, county commissioners approved measures during their Tuesday, Nov. 27, meeting to ensure the implementation of the next generation of a 9-1-1 system.

Scott Haas, director of the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services, provided a report outlining a grant to the department in the amount of $320,000 by the Maryland Emergency Number Systems Board.

According to an official memo from the department to commissioners, “The purpose of this grant is to hire a consultant and project manager to assist the nine counties of the Eastern Shore including Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester.”

The consultant, Mission Critical partners, will assist each county in reviewing Next Gen 9-1-1 proposals to assist with determining the best vendor for each of the Shore counties. Mission Critical Partners was selected off the Nation Purchasing Partners Government contract and also is the consultant for the state ENSB for Next Gen 9-1-1 in the state of Maryland.

“We’ve given commissioners two or three updates over the last 12 months on Next Gen 9-1-1 and how it affects the county,” Haas said. “We’ve partnered with the nine counties on the Eastern Shore, which is Region Four. That’s because we all use the same Verizon tandems and we all switch over to Next Gen 9-1-1 at the same time.”

Haas said the project has continued for an estimated two years where AT&T was only company able to provide Next Gen 9-1-1 to Region Four. Since then, Motorola has offered an alternative option with Region Four receiving a presentation from both potential vendors.

The unanimous decision by Region Four, Haas said, was that better expertise was needed to decide who the better vendor would be. Thus, the need for Mission Critical partners emerged without any cost to the county.

“Part of the grant stipulates that we have to follow county procurement policy since we’re piggybacking off a government contract,” Haas said. “All we have to do is receive the invoice and we give it to the state ENSB to move forward. Our goal for Region Four is that we go with the same vendor even though we can’t make any guarantees it will go that way.”

Central Maryland has already decided to sign on with AT&T, but uniformity on the Eastern Shore will make it easier for transition and call transfers. Haas also noted that AT&T was three to four times the cost the county is currently paying for services through Verizon. Motorola is half the cost of their competitor AT&T.

Haas said either option has the county paying more for the Next Gen 9-1-1 system than what is currently being paid to Verizon.

“Say we go with AT&T and four other counties go with Motorola, the questions will be if these systems will integrate within each other. We don’t want to wind up with a scenario like what happened with radios (for first responders),” said County Commissioner Jack Wilson, addressing the possible issues of multiple vendors in various locations.

Haas assured commissioners such a problem would be unlikely even if there was no uniformity in the vendors the nine counties select.

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