A Q&A Interview with James Lipinski, ENP, Enhanced 9-1-1 IT Manager for the Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board (Part 3)

Below is the third in a series of Q&A interviews with James Lipinski, ENP, Enhanced 9-1-1 IT Manager for the Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board. James was one of several NG9-1-1 experts to join our NG9-1-1 Panel Discussion at APCO recently (NG9-1-1: Past Lessons, Present State, Future Opportunities). In this three-part Q&A interview, James touches on the implications of NG9-1-1 from the standpoint of 9-1-1 Communication Center processes. In part 1 of the blog, James discusses the change management issues that come along with moving to technology. In part 2, he shares his advice on how to think creatively and prepare your PSAP for those changes. In the final installment below, he shares his personal experience on the advantages of IP-based 9-1-1.

James, Vermont has been in the news lately because of the effects of Tropical Storm Irene. Do you feel that having an IP-based 9-1-1 system proved advantageous as Irene battered Vermont?

James: Absolutely! At the height of the storm our second busiest PSAP had to be evacuated until the following morning due to flooding concerns. It also happened to be the PSAP in the area that was hardest hit and seeing record call volumes. The evacuation turned out to be a minor issue for the 9-1-1 system. Because our multi-tiered call flow lets the entire state operate as a single virtual PSAP, when we lost one of our PSAPs, calls were spread out among all the other PSAPs in the state. The same economies of scale that let us reduce the number of PSAPs when we moved to an IP-based system let us effectively handle record call volumes with reduced system capacity.

Had our legacy system still been in place, it would have sent all the calls from the evacuated PSAP to one or two designated back-ups. But in order to provide the same level of service, these back-up sites would have had to be greatly overbuilt, adding to the system cost. And in case we lost one of the back-up sites, there would have been a need to have excess capacity at other sites as well. …And therein lies the beauty of IP-based 9-1-1.

IP-based systems allow 9-1-1 agencies to break the cycle of overbuilding. The more we can rely on collective capacity, the more we can size our systems for expected call volumes rather than catastrophic call volumes.

This is no different than the concept of mutual aid. Fire departments don’t need to have the resources to handle any possible emergency when they can rely on partners. IP-based 9-1-1 systems will be able to use the same concept. I am looking forward to a time when we’ll be able to roll calls to other systems in other jurisdictions, just as we do within our own jurisdiction today. When an Irene-like event occurs, it will be nice when other PSAPs in unaffected regions are able to provide mutual aid.

This in my mind is probably the number one reason to move to NG9-1-1. Once we can roll calls between systems, we no longer have to build each system to support the call volume of its own worst case scenario. Instead, we can build systems that are able to rely on collective capacity. When we can build much smaller systems that still meet volume requirements, the savings will be huge.

James Lipinski has extensive experience with Enhanced and Next Generation 9-1-1 systems. As the Information Technology Manager for the Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board, James was responsible for implementing the first statewide all IP 9-1-1 system in 2007. He is currently working with Intrado Inc. on the implementation of an Advanced 9-1-1 system. With over three years of direct responsibility for the operation of a consolidated Next Generation 9-1-1 system, he has firsthand knowledge and experience with the technical, operational, governance, and fiscal issues posed by Next Generation 9-1-1 Systems. James is active in many committees related to Next Generation 9-1-1. He is a contributing member to the NENA NG9-1-1 Security Work Group. He is also a member of the NENA NG9-1-1 PSAP Work Group. James was co-chair of the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) - Working Group 1- A - Public Safety Consolidation, Governance Sub-Work Group. James is also a member of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center’s (MS-ISAC) Metrics and Compliance Work Group. James can be contacted at james.lipinski@state.vt.us.

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