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West Virginia Pushes Toward Interoperability

State wants more backup and redundancy for its emergency communications.

July 07–UNION — West Virginia’s inexorable move toward a completely inter-operable emergency communications system is making headway in a region that includes Monroe County, according to 911 Director Tim Wilson.

With a new Web-based telephone system for the 911 Center right around the corner and new cell towers on Greenbrier Mountain and in Mercer County closing a long-standing radio gap, Wilson said recent conferences have allayed some of his reservations about the changes on the horizon.

“It’s just changing the way we do things,” he told the Monroe County Commission during a Wednesday morning meeting.

Wilson said both the radio tower network and the regional telephone system that will operate out of a server located in Beckley are a nod to the state’s goals of establishing “more back-up, more redundancy” at every turn.

He predicted it will be around a year before completion of the Web-based phone system that will serve Raleigh, Greenbrier, Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer and Monroe counties.

“Everybody’s in pretty much the same boat (regarding the telephone system),” Wilson said, noting other servers similar in capacity to the one in Beckley are located in emergency centers around the state. Any server in the network can be pushed into service as back-up for any other server, in case of a power outage or equipment failure, he said.

In exceptionally exigent circumstances, 911 personnel from one county can even temporarily relocate to another county in the region and log into their home county’s emergency system to receive calls and to dispatch responders, Wilson said.

The statewide radio communications system now nearing completion will allow emergency responders to have direct contact with regional command, Wilson said. As it stands now, Monroe responders usually have to resort to a telephone relay through the 911 Center, putting dispatchers in the position of repeating critical medical instructions from doctors to paramedics in the field, for example, Wilson said.

“If I can take our people out of that mix, it’s worth every penny,” he maintained.

Quite a few pennies are going into closing the gaps in the system in Monroe’s region, and Wilson passed along a request to the county commissioners for $19,500 in support of the 480-foot-tall communications tower that was just erected in Mercer County. The money is to be used to run coaxial cable up the tower, Wilson said.

Asked by Commissioner Clyde Gum Jr. if the project would not be completed without a financial contribution by Monroe County, Wilson said too much money has already been invested by various counties in the region for the project to stall now. But he predicted there would be repercussions for Monroe if the county does not contribute.

The commission took no immediate action on Wilson’s request.


West Virginia Pushes Toward Interoperability