I-COM upgrade in the works

Island County’s primary dispatch center for all 911 calls is readying itself to join a small group of neighboring counties in utilizing an emerging technology that will eliminate the need for a backup center.

With the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics fast approaching, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognized Island County and its emergency agencies’ need for extra funds to aid in preparation for the massive event.

The county is part of Region 1, which also includes Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan and Snohomish counties. The jurisdictions will find out in early spring if they have been awarded the $8 million in FEMA grant dollars.

Through an interlocal agreement with the city. I-COM has relied on a backup center located at the Oak Harbor Fire Department, said Fire Chief Mark Soptich at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The funds, if awarded, will elevate communication in the region for all agencies by helping to purchase and install a microwave loop utilizing Internet Protocol technology for radio contact.

The impressive system, for which the microwave component serves as backbone and the IP provides complete computerization, will effectively connect the entire region, including the Washington State Patrol

“That will give I-COM and the other county agencies the closed network we need to ultimately tie all of the region’s radio systems together,” said Tom Shaughnessy, I-COM director. A “closed network” precludes any outside access, providing invaluable security.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Shaughnessy said. “This will be a multi-county and multi-agency endeavor. The scenarios are infinite.”

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