More resilient 911 with broadband satellite

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More resilient 911 with broadband satellite

An emergency or disaster is no time to discover that a critical communications network has gone down. That’s why the Ark-Tex Council of Governments (ATCOG) added resiliency to its regional 911 network with a broadband satellite solution.

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ATCOG oversees the 911 system in nine counties across northeast Texas and one in southwest Arkansas. The region’s 12 public safety answering points (PSAPs) are served by T1 lines.

“We’ve actually had weather-related and human-related incidents that have caused both T1s to go down,” said Mary Beth Rudel, the public safety manager at ATCOG. “I wouldn’t say they’re frequent, but they’re not uncommon.”

In the past, that meant 911 calls would be rerouted to a neighboring district, which complicated response because the dispatchers didn’t know the area or the emergency workers as well as the people who serve the area every day, Rudel said.

So ATCOG worked with Hughes and AT&T to create a site-to-site satellite backup network that provides an alternate communication path should primary terrestrial or cellular network outages occur, as happened in New York and New Jersey as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

Now if the T1 lines go down, routers at each of the PSAPs switch to the satellite system.

“There has been tons of testing, and it's all very seamless,” Rudel said. “We’ve taken three live 911 calls on it so far, and neither the dispatchers nor the callers knew they were on satellite.… It was flawless.”

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

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