First Responders

At a glance:

This 911 provider was being pressured to adopt a new, unfamiliar telecom system. We showed them they had other options, and analyzed their workflow to steer them toward the best fit.

Once the transition plan was in hand, we guided them through the implementation process with workforce education, vendor management and a secure, redundant migration to the new system.

The Problem:

As the only emergency services provider in its coverage area, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue is there to make sure there’s a reassuring voice on the other end of the line when someone calls for help. But when their telco provider decided to phase out the connection protocol CKFR had relied on for years—essentially pulling their entire phone system out from under them—the rescue outfit began to feel like they could use some emergency services themselves.

The provider suggested a new system. The account rep promised that it would work just as well (as salespeople do), but CKFR wasn’t so sure.

As the provider of 911 service for much of Kitsap County, CKFR needed to keep its communications humming—downtime wasn’t an option. With the clock ticking, they turned to us: Could a new backend solution keep them afloat—and perhaps even solve some reliability problems that had been nagging at the old system for a while?

Solutions: Analysis, Recommendations and Strategy

We started with a through inventory of the client’s needs, using the leave-no-stone-unturned requirements process we’ve developed over years of translating real-world business problems into technology solutions. 

Unsurprisingly, reliability topped the list. Call volume analysis showed the existing carrier’s ability to recover from outages (“failover”) wasn’t up to snuff. We also found that CKFR’s staff wanted to keep their existing phone switchboard system (a typical PBX setup), so whatever telco solution they chose would need to integrate with that. And no matter what the solution was, the workforce would need training and demonstrations to take full advantage of the new tech’s capabilities.

We ultimately recommended that they switch to a cloud VoIP (“Voice over IP,” aka telephone using the Internet) provider, which offered modern flexibility while still letting them keep the hardware they were used to. We also recommended that they work with a professional services firm to help them wrangle the carrier, equipment vendors, and other stakeholders throughout the process.

Solutions: Action and Implementation

On the strength of our analysis, CKFR asked us to be that professional services firm. We happily serve many clients with just strategy and design, but since we know the issues and client’s business so intimately after that phase, we relish the chance to bring our recommendations to life – and with no learning curve.

We began with client education, setting up demonstrations of the tech with the various suppliers. Once the VoIP provider was chosen and the details of that service contract hammered out, we exhaustively verified that their existing hardware (including that legacy PBX system) would work with the new system—in all use cases. We then ran a battery of tests to confirm that the cloud provider’s failover systems could handle whatever the client threw at them.

As mentioned above, in this application downtime isn’t an option. Thus, we developed a detailed migration strategy to ensure that the move to the new system would go off without a hitch, with the failsafes and rollback capabilities necessary to keep systems online even if there were service issues.

Results

We delivered the client from the uncertainty of a complex technology transition—and improved reliability in the process—all while staying on schedule and under budget. And for the folks in Kitsap county, the greatest benefit was something they probably didn’t even notice: An improved 911 system that won’t let them down when they need it most.