ALBANY COUNTY — At a press conference held in front of the Colonie Public Safety Center on the morning of Friday, April 15, Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga county officials announced the introduction of a $5.5 million collaborative emergency data system to be shared across all three counties by the end of next year. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD), 911 and records management system will cover 38 towns, 21 villages, 7 cities, nearly 700,000 residents and 2,042 square miles and be used by 116 fire departments, 46 EMS agencies and 21 law enforcement agencies. It is expected to save taxpayers a significant amount of money, while safeguarding against the failure of any individual system.
“We had such an instance five years ago,” said Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, “when our dispatch center was struck by lightening.” With the new system in place, she said, “we’ll be able to back each other up; people calling 911 will still be able to get a dispatcher and they’ll still be able to get the emergency responders they’re looking for.”
According to Colonie Police Chief Jonathan Teale, the counties have chosen a common vendor—TriTech Software Solutions—that will link 911 dispatch centers across the region to other public safety agencies. Each county will host servers to store and exchange data from the various municipalities. The data-sharing system is intended to provide first responders with all available data, such as maps, before they’ve arrived on the scene of an accident or crime. “Police officers will have more data in real time,” said Teale, “that will allow them to be safer and make more informed decisions. The system architecture will also provide a level of redundancy for 911 phone calls and data that we currently do not have.”
“The new CAD and mobile systems will modernize our center,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, “enabling us to improve the level of service we can provide to the citizens of Albany County, and will allow law enforcement and emergency service personnel to share computer records in a way they never could before.”
“In addition to the mass footprint of data-sharing,” he continued, “this is going to save the taxpayers of each county roughly a million dollars. In Albany County, we have to update that 911 system every couple of years and we spend roughly a million dollars on that, and then we have to spend roughly a million dollars to have redundancy because if something goes down, we need that back-up. But, by tying in with Saratoga and Rensselaer counties, we’ll be able to have triple redundancy, which is really unheard of.”
In addition to the initial million saved in Albany County, said Apple, the new system will save taxpayers an additional $200,000 annually in maintenance costs. “There are municipal savings as well,” said Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson. “In the Town of Bethlehem, this is a great initiative. We’re doing it for the pubic safety and criminal justice reasons alone, but when governments work together, good things happen. Not only are the counties going to save money, we’re going to save a lot of money too. To upgrade to a system of this caliber would have cost close to a million dollars in initial investment and, instead, it’s costing around $300,000.” Annual maintenance costs for Bethlehem’s dispatch system, he said, will be reduced by about a third. “Most importantly,” said Clarkson, “we’re getting a much superior system.”
According to Saratoga County Office of Emergency Services Director Carl Zeilman, the $5.5 million project is being funded by each county separately through bonds, county funds set aside for public safety capital needs and grants for statewide interoperable communications. Planning for the project “the first of its kind in this area” began in 2014, with each county assessing the needs of its own emergency response agencies. Individual contract agreements with the San Diego-based TriTech were reached earlier this year.