Communications Upgrades Complete

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Thursday September 21, 2017

The need for effective communications and technology equipment is critical to the operation of our police, fire, and public works departments, and a newly upgraded public safety communications system is now in place in the city. Members of the city council visited the transmitter site with the new tower and associated equipment building off of Dorset Street to officially flip the switch Monday, September 18, and the system will be activated in stages over the next week.

In a public vote held in August 2016, South Burlington citizens approved a $1.9 million bond to fund the upgrades necessary to modernize an aging communications system. The previous technology was in place for 14 years; it is expected that the new equipment will last 15-20 years.

The city will continue to use a radio network system first created for South Burlington in 2001/02. That plan has worked “flawlessly” according to Fire Chief Doug Brent, and with the upgrade, there was no need to re-engineer these sites.

What does Brent mean by “flawlessly?” At a presentation to city council in May, Brent noted that in the 14 years the system has been in use, it ran for 7,358,400 minutes continuously. During that time there have only been two partial failures of the system, totaling 75 minutes—when just a portion of the system was off air.

Before the upgrade, the fire department was operating with an all-analog system, and the police department was using a first generation digital system from 2003. Until recently they were able to replace equipment as it wore out instead of reconfiguring the entire system. But when parts for repair were no longer available, new equipment was needed to replace aging and outdated technology. Brent acknowledged, “planned obsolescence has become too common.”

Chief Brent served as project director for the system upgrade which was executed by Radio North, and received excellent reviews from the Motorola optimization team last week.

The upgrade includes 46 radios in public works vehicles, 21 units for the police department, and 9 units for the fire department. The equipment for the fire department has specific upgrades dedicated to the needs of firefighters, including GPS capability, high visibility, and a waterproof feature.

This system upgrade also creates a disaster recovery plan for the city whereby if the police station or city hall were flooded, for example, each department could be up and running within an hour thanks to a new fiber connection between the police department and City Hall. This was achieved by allocating $130,000 of the $1.9 million to establish a storage area network storage (SAN), installation of switches, firewalls, and a router.


SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent