The Night The Power Went Out
VESTA® 9-1-1 Responds
When the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBCSD) realized they needed a new air conditioning system for their server room, they had no idea it would mean shutting down power for the entire Valley Control Center which houses their VESTA® 9-1-1, radio and CAD servers.
The building at the Valley Control Center for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBCSD had never been without electricity for the 28 years of its existence.
Electricians said the only safe way to prepare the building for the new air conditioner would be to upgrade the electrical system and to do that they would need 4 – 6 hours with all electricity turned off.
San Bernardino County covers 20,000 square miles and is comprised of two dispatch centers: the Valley Control Center (VCC) and the Desert Control Center (DCC). VCC handles 594,000 emergency and administrative calls per year with 28 positions. DCC, with 33 positions, manages 589,000 calls annually.
Because of its geo-diverse design, the VESTA 9-1-1 system allows these two host sites to be connected via a wide area network with redundant links. It also supports a secondary PSAP at the county’s consolidated fire dispatch center, CONFIRE, which operates 12 positions at VCC to dispatch fire and EMS resources, in addition to six training positions at DCC.
The power outage affected not only the VCC, but the CONFIRE as well and their entire crew. The plan was to shut off electricity during the graveyard shift on a Sunday night to Monday morning at the VCC and have the 9-1-1 calls answered at the DCC, about 45 minutes away. The call takers on the graveyard shift would be shuttled to the DCC to take the calls during the time the VCC was down. But even with the electricity turned off, San Bernardino had to ensure the main servers for VESTA 9-1-1, radio and CAD kept running so service was not interrupted.
It was decided to place a small generator on these critical servers so that when the switch-over happened to the DCC, the call takers on the Graveyard Shift could log in as always without interruption.
And now it gets interesting.
First, the 45 minute drive to the DCC never happened. A major accident on the Cajon Pass blocked the highway so a sheriff helicopter had to be brought in to transport the call takers to the desert.
In the meantime the team back at the VCC was anxiously a-waiting the time when the electricity would be shut off and hopefully all would go as planned.
“It took a lot of planning,” said Cyndee Freeman, Communications Manager for the VCC.
Cyndee has been working at the VCC from day one and so the experience of all power off was a new one for her and as she says it was almost eerie. “For the first time in 28 years the building was completely silent. But everything worked perfectly. In fact it went so smoothly that we didn't know if we should stay in the room for a while or if it was OK to go. All the call takers had to do, once they got to the DCC, was log in as themselves on the VESTA 9-1-1 consoles and start taking calls.”
Brian Acosta, Dispatch Manager for CONFIRE, said that the CONFIRE crew transitioned their night shift to the DCC prior to the power shut down as well. “The redundant connectivity allowed CONFIRE’s operation to go off-line at one center and on-line at the other seamlessly. Brian said he used the opportunity of an empty dispatch center to vacuum, dust and disinfect the room - “the stuff we usually don’t have time to do.”
When the power was turned back on and the time came to switch back to the VCC, Cyndee said the reverse process worked perfectly as well.
“It’s great to know that even if we have something catastrophic happen, as long as we have a plan, we can depend on VESTA 9-1-1 to be there. In the end for the Call Takers, it was just a matter of logging on and logging off. What could be smoother!”
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