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Small County Upgrades Emergency Operations Center to AVoIP

Idaho emergency centers went from whiteboards to AV-based video displays.

LEWISTON, Idaho—In 2018, it became apparent that Idaho’s Nez Perce County emergency operations center, which serves a population of just over 40,000, needed an overhaul. While it did function as a place for government officials to meet and strategize in times of crisis—from natural disasters such as wildfires, flooding and winter storms to man-made accidents and terrorist attacks—it lacked the AV and communications capacities to be as effective as it needed to be.

Tom Vestal, GIS specialist, Nez Perce County, is in complete control of the facility’s new AV-over-IP system, which does not require vendor assistance to make changes or install new devices. (Image credit: ZeeVee)

For instance, the facility, located in the city of Lewiston, on the state’s western border, was outfitted with out-of-date analog radios on loan from other agencies, such as the Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office. To present and share information, EOC staffers relied on whiteboards and printed maps. Based on factors such as these, there was a call to recreate the facility to be able to immediately assess and respond to emergencies, while keeping police, fire, EMS personnel and other first responders updated in these situations.

To make the upgrade, county officials appropriated a budget of $41,000 to create a formidable Ethernet-based AV network that would be compatible with the facility’s existing data network and stream video to 15 video displays located throughout three rooms at the EOC.

The EOC team had a list of specific needs for the upgrade. They wanted an AV distribution platform based on open-standard interoperability that allowed the freedom to choose from a wider array of available gear. It needed scalable architecture that would allow future growth without replacing existing equipment, and it had to be within budget.

For the new AV system, the officials conducted a review of available solutions and decided on the following system:

  • One Z4KMP48 ZeeVee Management Platform
  • 15 ZyPerHD ZeeVee encoders
  • 15 ZyPerHD ZeeVee decoders
  • Two AM-101 Crestron Air Media Wireless HD Presentation
  • One JD010A HP 4800 48-Port Managed Switch

The install, which was conducted in-house by the county IT department and the emergency manager, went very quickly after a few of the key components were successfully tested at the outset. Also appealing to Tom Vestal, GIS specialist, Nez Perce County, was how easy system expansion proved to be with the AV-over-IP system, as it does not require vendor assistance to make changes or install new devices.

“We were able to hit the ground running because the encoders and decoders were delivered preconfigured to automatically work with ZeeVee’s ZyPer management platform,” Vestal said. “Since the install, we were able to easily integrate additional encoders and decoders without a problem.”

The updated system also provides the EOC with an improved means to distribute content from multiple sources—including up to nine laptops, two air media devices (for content from tablets and phones), satellite TV and a Blu-ray player—to the plethora of HD displays available.

“Now anyone on the staff is able to share media from a computer, tablet or phone that can be displayed on any or all screens to keep anyone in the EOC updated with the latest data,” Vestal said. “Satellite TV capability also enables staffers to stay apprised of relevant local, regional, and national news.”

While there has not yet been an actual emergency to put the system to the test, the EOC staff has trialed the system in exercises with other state agencies in Idaho. According to Vestal, the system has been very stable.

Vestal is very pleased and proud of the new AV and communications system that was created for the Nez Perce County emergency operations center. The approach, which implements high-performance gear that stays within budget, will make it possible to better assist the community in times of crisis and easily add future capabilities as needed without having to change the underlying system.

This story originally appeared on GV’s sister publication AVNetwork.