September 29, 2009 By Adam Stone
In April 1993, Arlington County, Va., grouped its emergency communications capabilities into a single state-of-the-art Emergency Communications Center. But after little more than a decade, it was no longer state-of-the-art, so in May 2008 the county unveiled a new and considerably improved version.
With three times the prior footprint, the new 8,000-square-foot facility accommodates 24 positions, a video wall that can tap 250 feeds, a new digital radio system and three times as many 911 lines.
The new computer network configuration dramatically reduces heat and noise, and simplifies system operation and maintenance.
Computers have been relocated away from the operator area to a separate space where they are all within an administrator's easy reach. Previously one or more computers would be crowded into a single workspace. When troubles arose, administrators had to get down on their hands and knees in a hot and crowded space to untangle wires and attempt to address the problem.
By removing PCs from the work area, the system allows IT staff to remediate problems more easily. Remote location of PCs also lets administrators access and maintain these systems without intruding on dispatchers' work environment, a potentially significant benefit in an atmosphere already buzzing with urgent activity. The removal of PCs from the work floor also helps administrators guarantee a certain level of privacy and security.
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This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.