As stated before, the 9-1-1 emergency system in Montgomery County needs some changes. It needs to be upgraded and new equipment needs to be bought as well. What the public may not know is last week the system caused a huge concern for emergency personnel.

This scare allowed the county officials to declare an “emergency” that bypasses the original plan of finding the best bidders to find a solution to the 9-1-1 emergency system.

The original plan consisted of spending between $30 million and $50 million on a system that would be approved later this year.

After a huge hiccup in the system over a week ago, there has been a halt to that plan and now a new plan is intact, which may add more costs to the original plan.

The halt was caused by a part of the paging system which had been taken down for routine maintenance. This part is used to dispatch fire companies and ambulances. When this part was restarted, it didn’t work; it couldn’t be used and was taken offline. Thankfully, the county has a back-up system, which automatically kicked in.

Public Safety Director Thomas M. Sullivan called the matter, “extremely dangerous.” There are backups to all these systems. If the back-up had failed, a necessary system would have gone offline.

According to Sullivan, if the back-up system did go down, everyone in the county’s lives would’ve been in danger.

Now officials are looking to spend money, no matter how much it is, to find a quick fix so that this doesn’t happen again.

“It is a proactive step,” Sullivan said. “Last week something was taken down for maintenance and it wouldn’t start up again. As we take things down for maintenance for other issues the concern is that it may not restart.”

Before purchases can be made for the fix, officials must give the green light. The problem may be that the county can’t afford the time to find a competitive price, as the clock is ticking and the emergency system needs to be fixed for good.

“No matter the cost, officials can look to purchase items that will be a short term fix to the solution,” said chairman James R. Matthews. “Of course, county officials have to sign and agree to the purchase before it is made.”

This purchase may be anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. No one knows.

“What widget we need to make the system work, we are authorizing them to go get it,” Matthews said. “There is no time for competition in an emergency.”

The county had already brought in a consultant to help them get the best price to fix the system, but is currently looking for another consultant.

Now that the panic button has officially been pressed, the county’s spending may go up any day.

The county is already working on a re-band of the radio system, which also interferes with the system from time to time which causes it to go offline for maintenance.

Sullivan stated, “as soon as you mess with [different parts of the system], they may not go back online.”

With the system getting tinkered with so much, it is understandable why this scare is causing commissioners to look at all the options.

“I am not saying the sky is falling, but we have to be proactive to make an immediate move,” Sullivan said. “We want to keep the system going so if someone picks up the phone it works.”

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