BY KEN LITTLE
It looks like it will be 2014 before the 911 "next generation" communications system is activated in Greene County.
CenturyLink is still ironing out a procedure for performing updates that won't cause the 911 system to crash, as has happened in other districts already online, county 911 Director Jerry Bird said Wednesday.
The equipment was purchased cooperatively and will be used by the eight 911 districts in Upper East Tennessee: Greene County, the city of Bristol, Carter County, Johnson County, the city of Kingsport, Sullivan County, Unicoi County and Washington County.
It's already up and running in Johnson City and in Sullivan and Washington counties, where the problems were encountered, Bird said.
Officials from Greene County and the other seven 911 districts met last month with CenturyLink managers.
Further meetings will be held.
"CenturyLink will be meeting with the state and AT&T to get some policies in place when doing updates.
"It seems whenever CenturyLink does updates to the software, is when the glitch occurs," Bird said. "Once these policies and procedures are in place, we will be ready to go online."
CenturyLink facilities in Johnson City and Bristol serve as the routing hubs of the state-of-the-art system.
Bristol, Tenn., is scheduled to be activated next. Then Greene County. 911 officials had said the new communications system would be activated here earlier this year.
All the necessary computer software and hardware is at the Greene County 911 dispatch center, at 111 Union St.
There is nothing wrong with the existing 911 system.
However, the new communications system has several advantages, including the capability to share information more quickly with other areas in the state, Bird said.
"The outages that have occurred have all been human error," Bird said. "It's not the setup of the system; it's just people going in and not telling anybody."
All eight districts were initially projected to be in the system by the end of 2013 "but it didn't work that way," Bird said.
FUNDING IN PLACE
The 911 system currently in use was installed in 2000 in Greene County. While in need of a technological upgrade, the Greene County 911 system is working fine and will serve residents until the new system is in place, Bird said.
The projected life of the next generation 911 communications equipment is seven years.
The state, through the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, has set aside $211,700 to reimburse Greene County for its share of the new equipment.
The money that Greene County will receive for the communications system includes $87,000 for the regional component in Johnson City, a five-year maintenance contract for the software installed at the Union Street 911 office, and funds to update technology at the Greene County 911 center.