PlantCML, which provides communications solutions and services to more than 4000 public-safety answering points throughout the U.S. and Canada, is seeing PSAPs beginning to make the move to all IP networks.

The company recently announced two deals with 911 centers to provide its Sentinel Patriot product, an emergency call solution that runs on an IP network. Walker County 911 in Jasper, Ala., upgraded its call center technology to Sentinel Patriot with the help of Ryan Public Safety Solutions (RPSS), a public-safety systems provider in Alabama. Running on a voice and data IP network provided by RPSS, the Sentinel Patriot is helping dispatchers more efficiently handle calls and easily share information to expedite emergency response via the product’s Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) capabilities.

PlantCML also scored a similar deal with Campbell County, Wyo. The Sentinel Patriot is allowing officials there to more efficiently receive calls, identify locations and dispatch personnel to serve the county’s 50,000 residents. The new system was developed for the Gillette Police Department and the county’s sheriff’s office through a partnership between PlantCML and Qwest Communications, which offers the voice and data IP network.

“PlantCML has provided us with an innovative system allowing Campbell County Sheriff’s and Gillette PD to work together seamlessly,” said Lisa Barthel communications coordinator for Gillette PD. “We had very specific system requirements and PlantCML was able to find a solution for each of our needs. For example, we requested a single system with redundancy in separate locations and PlantCML has essentially combined our call centers even though we operate in different buildings.”

IP networks provide much-needed flexibility to respond to emergencies. The idea is to create a common interface so that PSAPs can connect with a variety of systems—wireline, cellular or VoIP over cable—to be able to handle text messages, photographs and video, in addition to intelligent telematics systems capable of sending crash and speed information to 911 centers. The majority of PSAPs, however, are beginning with the basics, primarily combining call centers.

“We’re starting to see PSAPs more in tune with the idea that IP is coming whether they want it or not,” said Jeremy Smith, technical solutions engineer with PlantCML. “They realize they need to start putting the pieces in place to prepare for that migration. … Budget cycles are enabling PSAPs to buy solutions and packages to prepare.”

However, with IP networks comes the threat of viruses and hackers, Smith said, which is why the company recently selected Secure Computing’s Secure Firewall to protect these systems from Internet threats.

“PSAPs will face the same kinds of threats you see on any IP network,” Smith said.

PlantCML chose Secure Computing’s product over a standard off-the-shelf firewall product for several reasons, including the fact that the product includes an application firewall and a proven track record of how to deliver secure products. In other words, its products have never been hacked.

“If the DoD uses it, then it’s good enough for 911. Anything less would be irresponsible,” Smith said.