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Harris County, TX Goes With MCM to Manage Their Communications System

The Harris County Information Technology Center’s Radio Services team currently provides radio system management for a P25 network spanning 48,000 square miles, 24 counties, and 1,242 agencies / customers – supporting a wide array of functions from police, fire and EMS to public service, roads and bridges, schools and animal control. The system consists of 103 total sites between P25 digital sites, legacy analog sites, and microwave sites, and includes 64,619 active subscribers. Needless to say, this is one of the most complex systems in the country.


Situation

Harris County, TX is the largest county in the state of Texas and the third largest in the United States. It is home to approximately five million residents, international shipping, petrochemical and nuclear power facilities, as well as the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston. These facts along with the ever-present threat of natural disasters along the Gulf Coast have made public safety communications incredibly important within Harris County.

In 1989, Harris County was served by a patchwork of more than 15 different independent radio networks. While this setup accomplished the task at hand, county leaders began to realize that a unified communications system would benefit all involved. Therefore, Harris County elected to consolidate and centralize those 15 systems into one radio network.

To manage this new system, Harris County developed an in-house software application designed around their specific needs. However, because it was designed around their specific needs, it became increasingly difficult to sup- port as their operation grew. This combined with the aging technology on which their in-house application was built, led Harris County to consider a new solution to manage their expansive radio network.

Challenges

Due to the wide range of responsibilities handled by the Harris County Information Technology Center, there were very specific requirements the new application would have to meet. This made finding a new solution much easier said than done. Harris County needed a solution that would not only preserve the functionality found in their current in-house solution, but also allow them to move beyond their current restrictions and into the future. This meant the new solution would need flexible functionality that could grow and change with their operation.

Another major requirement of the new application was the ability to preserve the data in their current in-house application. With historical data in the way of tens of thousands of asset records and work orders dating back to the 1990’s, it was imperative that Harris County be able to continue to access and use this data. This meant export- ing the data in their current solution and converting into a format that could be utilized by the new application.

Implementing a solution of this magnitude also presented its share of challenges. A radio system the size of Harris County cannot afford to stop day-to-day operations while new software and processes are implemented. Transition would take coordination from many different departments and planning that would allow for continued operation throughout the implementation process. Therefore, in addition to a tool that could effectively meet their specific needs, Harris County would also need a partner that could assist them in rolling out the solution and ensure that it would be a long term success.

Stay tuned for the complete installment coming soon!