CoA high speed public safety wireless system earns international recognition

An international organization of government IT workers recognized the City of Asheville June 15 for an innovative and cost effective point-to-point network connecting the city’s emergency response network.

The system, implemented with the assistance of IT Services, the Asheville Fire Department, and Building Safety, and with a partnership with the locally-based Skyrunner, grew out of a change in state law that limited the city’s right to use a multi-million dollar fiber optic network connecting more than 22 city facilities.

“The city was faced with paying $450,000 annually for continued use of the fiber network,” said Jonathan Feldman, City of Asheville IT Services director. “To continue meeting the public safety needs of the community, and City Council’s goal of fiscal responsibility, we needed to think outside the box.”

The “Best Practice” award, presented by GMIS (Government Management Information Sciences) International, acknowledges the city for its initiative, timeliness, and cost avoidance by building the replacement network for less than $20,000.

“The GMIS Best Practices Award is extremely important because it represents trailblazers and risk takers who find innovative, creative and exciting, and sometimes genius ways of doing things that others haven’t thought of,” said Janet Claggett, second vice president of GMIS International. “The time constraints and money constraints made the project that much more challenging, and the fact that the City of Asheville was able to pull together an innovative plan within its budget really blew the GMIS International board away.”

From October 2010 to January 2011, City of Asheville departments constructed an extensive wireless point-to-point network. Skyrunner provided highly cost effective and cutting edge radio equipment. The compact and energy efficient radios permitted installation at a greatly accelerated pace where traditional radio systems could not be reliably installed.

High-speed wireless technology represents the continuation of a station alerting system implemented by Asheville Fire and Rescue several years ago, which, in addition to other City Council investments, contributed to a three-fold improvement in cardiac emergency survival rates and a 20 percent improvement in structure fire response rates.

“This was one of those occasions to take a problem and turn it into an opportunity,” said Technical Services Manager Wanda Burgess, whose division managed the wireless project. “By partnering with other departments, public agencies and the private sector, Asheville has been able to maintain critical services to the public at greatly reduced costs.”

Click here for more information about the City of Asheville IT Services Department.