When Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern U.S. seaboard in October 2012, many Long Island residents and businesses found themselves offline, with no connectivity. North Massapequa Fire District, an all-volunteer department with more than 90 members, was located on the south shore of Long Island, one of the hardest-hit areas. The fire district scrambled to keep vital communications links up in the wake of the Category 3 hurricane.
At that time, the district lacked a centralized voice network: the main house/headquarters, two other fire houses and a 911 dispatch center relied on their own telephony systems with no automatic backup in place.
“While our 911 system never went down, our backup processes were manual and took a lot of effort,” recalled Ralph Raymond, North Massapequa Fire District commissioner. When calls were forwarded, call dispatchers were not getting caller ID information on their telephone system, and had to get it from the county.
In the two years since Sandy, Long Island continues to face extreme weather events, most recently the blizzard of 2015, which dumped more than 20 inches of snow on parts of Long Island.
Fire district leadership knew they needed an overhaul of their aging voice network hardware, which was 20 years old. A key requirement: an automatic backup process in place, so they’d be better prepared for power outages and other incidents that could affect communications.
Faced with budgetary pressures from its taxpayer base, the fire district sought an innovative, cost-effective solution that would maximize its existing cable infrastructure without sacrificing reliability and performance.
North Massapequa Fire District turned to two experienced partners: DJJ Technologies, an Avaya Platinum Authorized Business Partner for voice, video and data, and MASS Communications. Since 1992, DJJ Technologies has provided voice, video and data solutions to clients, including serving the networking needs of 30 fire departments in Long Island, which rely heavily on volunteer members. An engineering innovator, MASS Comm designs the ideal voice and data solution environment for its customers while embracing a diversity strategy that includes dedicated and broadband backup to ensure clients remain connected – no matter what.
“The challenge these fire departments face is they not only need a reliable hardware solution, they also need a reliable vendor and a reliable service provider, who can help them quickly recover from network outages. These customers can’t afford to be out of business,” says Brendan Wallace, senior account executive, DJJ Technologies.
DJJ Technologies and MASS Comm, both New York based service-focused companies, designed a cost-effective solution that would deliver robust connectivity and automatic backup capability across the fire district’s four facilities. If a circuit goes down, the failover is automatic – requiring no human interaction.
The Avaya IP Office™ Platform serves as the core hardware infrastructure, while a dedicated IP link is deployed to the fire district’s main location. Dual service providers deliver broadband connectivity to remote sites to ensure redundancy.
“We have resiliency in place to ensure that the district’s 911 communications remain up, not only if the equipment fails, but also if a circuit goes down. The combination of the two was a very unique solution. No one else came to the table with a recommendation like that,” says Wallace.
To save the fire district money on the rollout, DJJ is running the voice traffic over an existing fiber ring and CAT 3 infrastructure at three of the sites. The fiber gives the district its centralized voicemail, a uniform dial plan, and the ability to do intercom and transfer calls over the network.
The solution includes SIP trunks,the protocol used by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems to manage VoIP phone calls. With this technology, the fire district’s emergency numbers are ported over in the event of an outage, so dispatchers will get the caller ID information directly from the caller as well as information from their 911 equipment.
The fire district’s new voice network fully deploys in March 2015, and already Commissioner Raymond is optimistic of what it will mean for the volunteer-run organization, which responded to 1,100 emergency calls in 2014.
”The new system gives us the ability to relocate our whole telephone and 911 system to any remote site at a moment’s notice without losing any functionality, including caller ID, which is critical for dispatchers to have when responding to an emergency call,” he says.
DJJ Technologies and MASS Comm expressed satisfaction with being able to respond to the fire district’s technology requirements in a custom way. “We were able to come to the table with a solution that met the fire district’s needs from a redundancy and resiliency standpoint, as well as meeting their budgetary needs,” says Dave Schwed, general counsel and CIO, MASS Communications.
“We believe the model we developed with MASS Comm could be used to support many more fire districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties,“ concludes Jerry Cummins, senior account executive, DJJ Technologies.