Innovation and Technology Services
ITS is responsible for overseeing all IT-related equipment and services. As the on-call secondary support for various branches within Support Services, we serve as an integral arm of the Incident Management Team. Our role encompasses tower maintenance, as well as providing general support whenever necessary. This year, our three-person department accomplished several significant milestones, with the most notable achievement being the successful installation of the Lightning Protection System on the Fleet tower. This innovative system is designed to safeguard both the tower and its associated equipment, leading to a reduction in the frequency of outages.
Looking ahead to FY 23/24, we remain committed to enhancing our performance. Like any proactive department, we are dedicated to optimizing our response times and the speed at which we resolve issues. This ongoing effort is aimed at minimizing downtime and mitigating potential service disruptions.
Even with the staffing issues we faced, the ITS Department achieved several milestones for the district:
- ITS Truck: ITS purchased and built out/furnished the ITS van. The van has already proved more than useful since it's arrival.
- Office Upgrade: One of the quicker projects completed, our Office suite has been upgraded from 2016 to 2021, allowing us to continue receiving updates and security patches.
- Fleet Tower Lightning Protection System: This system should protect the tower and equipment, and reduce the number of outages.
- Security System upgrades: Another effort to upgrade our overall system, we've been adding newer cameras to our system, allowing us to see real time coverage of our tower locations and server rooms.
- Administration Building 3: ITS played a huge part in preparing building 3 at administration for the move, running all network cabling, mounting and installing IT equipment, and playing a part in the initial cleanup.
- Fleet Telemetric / Dashboard Cameras: At this time a majority of the ESD's trucks have at least the gateway for tracking, with the first out and operations having cameras installed as well. They have already provided detailed information on our fleet and footage.
- ISP inbound speeds: In negotiations with our ISP, we have tripled the overall capacity of our inbound network, allowing for faster speeds in transmit and receive, at a lower cost than we were previously paying. This will allow us to continue upgrading our microwave network from 5g to 11g antennas, while seeing improvements to speeds overall for the stations.
- Server Room 1 AC Addition: Due to the additional equipment load in the Server Room, with the ongoing heat wave, we had to add a second AC unit. The addition of this unit has proven to be effective, keeping the temperatures down below the alert threshold, ensuring a longer life for our equipment.
- Tower Light Replacement: ITS completed a project to replace all lights with LED's, which have proven to have a longer lifespan overall against the incandescent originally installed. These will ensure that our towers are visible at night.
- Troup Tower - Section Addition: In order to add clearance for the 5g link between Troup and Bullard, ITS took on the task of adding an additional section to the Troup tower. This extra 10ft section proved significant in clearing obstructions for the link, allowing for faster speeds on the link overall, and ensuring a stable connection in the event part of the ring network is lost and traffic is diverted over this link.
While we celebrate our achievements, we also acknowledge the challenges encountered during the year:
- Supply Chain issues: Faced by any department, IT is no exception. We are still waiting on equipment backordered, or not even in stock, to allow us to continue with projects.
- User "Initiative": IT assets being swapped in apparatus', equipment being exchanged between users, all without informing ITS, is a significant issue we face. This causes communication issues, inability to properly track assets, and unknown ownership of devices.
- Equipment Shortfalls: Due to our userbase size, there are instances that we do not have equipment on hand for users. There are temporary workarounds, but a more permanent solution needs to be found in order to make up this ongoing problem.
Initiatives for the Upcoming Year:
- Resolution Speed: Always an initiative, and one that can continuously be improved. A fast response means a happy customer.
- Stock Equipment: An issue faced several times this year, the lack of on-hand spares has caused longer than needed outages. ITS wants to develop and implement a minimum quantity plan to have supplies and hardware on-hand in the event of a failure, to ensure the shortest downtime as possible.
- Staff Training: With any organization, change is bound to happen. With the loss of a staff member due to a lateral transfer, we promoted our help desk technician to Wireless Technician, and hired on a Field Service Technician. Both have been undergoing training both through classes and on the job, and are developing the skills needed to be an asset to the organization. We plan to continue this, allowing for any training opportunities that present themselves for our staff.
- Continued upgrade of our Microwave Network: We want to eventually replace all 5g antennas on our network with licensed 11g antennas. This will allow for faster speeds, and less chance of interference from the general public.
- Cybersecurity Training: Once again, always an initiative. With the continued rise in cyber threats, our organization must be trained and prepared for any event. This includes classes for our users, awareness of our network, and training of our staff.
- Update Contingency Plans: Some exist already, but the development of more is always needed. We will continue to add to our disaster, emergency, and continuity of operations plans as our network continues to develop and evolve.
Overview of Budget:
For the 23/24 FY budget year, ITS is committed to supporting several initiatives, including:
- Equipment Upgrades: Ensuring the best customer experience by keeping equipment up to date, replacing or upgrading as needed.
- Jamestown Station Project: ITS will be supporting the buildout of the Jamestown station, coordinating with needed contractors to ensure a quick and efficient completion of the IT infrastructure.
- Mobile Radio Replacement: As needed, mobile radios in apparatus' having issues will be replaced with current generation radios. This will ensure a uniformity across our fleet supporting easier troubleshooting.
One major change to the budget request this year is that IT is not budgeting for contingency replacements of equipment as in years past. Known replacement needs and historically documented needs are accounted for in this request but unforeseen needs will need to come from the technology refresh fund or from the general contingency account.
With a focus on cost control, data-driven decision-making, and proactive planning, we are determined to meet the challenges ahead and ensure the highest level of support to our dedicated personnel across the county.
Proposed ITS Projects
About the Server OS Upgrades Project
This project proposes the essential upgrade of servers to the latest version of Windows Server and vCenter hosts to the currently supported version. Addressing OS and security issues is crucial to maintain a secure and compliant server infrastructure. Additionally, upgrading all vCenter hosts from their end-of-life versions is imperative to avoid potential disruptions and ensure reliable and efficient management of our virtual environment.
The primary objective of this project is to upgrade our server infrastructure to the latest version of Windows Server, ensuring compliance with security standards and futureproofing our systems. Simultaneously, we aim to upgrade all vCenter hosts from end-of-life versions to the currently supported version, employing contracted support to minimize downtime and guarantee a successful and efficient migration.
- Windows Server Upgrade: Engage a subject matter expert to perform the upgrade of all servers to the latest version of Windows Server. This upgrade will address OS and security issues, providing a stable and secure server environment.
- vCenter Hosts Upgrade: Contract expert VMware support to facilitate the upgrade of all vCenter hosts to the latest supported version. Leveraging contracted expertise ensures minimal downtime and a seamless transition to the current version.
- Enhanced Security and Compliance: Upgrading Windows Server to the latest version will ensure that our server infrastructure remains secure and compliant with the latest security standards.
- Futureproofing Server Infrastructure: By upgrading to the latest Windows Server version, we will futureproof our servers, enabling compatibility with emerging technologies and applications.
- Reliable Virtual Environment Management: Upgrading all vCenter hosts to the currently supported version will provide reliable and efficient management of our virtual environment, minimizing the risk of disruptions.
- Expert Support and Minimal Downtime: Utilizing contracted support from subject matter experts for the vCenter upgrade guarantees efficient completion of the task with minimal downtime and reduced potential for critical issues.
- Assessment and Planning: Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the existing server infrastructure and vCenter hosts to determine the scope and requirements of the upgrades.
- Expert Engagement: Engage experienced subject matter experts for both the Windows Server upgrade and the vCenter hosts upgrade to ensure reliable and efficient execution.
- Testing and Validation: Conduct thorough testing and validation of the upgraded systems to ensure stability, security, and proper functionality.
- User Training: Provide training to relevant personnel on the new features and enhancements offered by the upgraded Windows Server and vCenter versions.
The project budget will encompass the cost of engaging subject matter experts, contracting VMware support, software licenses, and associated testing and validation expenses.
By undertaking the upgrade of servers to the latest Windows Server version and vCenter hosts to the currently supported version, we will significantly improve the security, compliance, and efficiency of our IT infrastructure. With contracted support, we can confidently execute these upgrades with minimal downtime and ensure the reliability of our systems. This project will enable our organization to maintain a robust and future-ready IT environment, safeguarding our operations and data.
About the 800-MGHz Radio Restock Project
This project proposes the acquisition of a batch of 12 APX6000xe radios to address the critical issue of low stock levels for our fire department. The current shortage of radios has hindered IT's ability to promptly assign radios to those who need them, including new hires and active volunteers with entry certifications. While some radios have been received from in-active volunteers, we have exhausted the available supply and need a sustainable solution to cater to the growing needs of our organization.
The primary objective of this project is to ensure that all personnel who require radios have access to them without delay. By procuring a batch of APX6000xe radios, we aim to enhance operational readiness and response capabilities, accommodating both new full-time hires and active certified volunteers with the necessary equipment.
The proposed solution involves purchasing a batch of 12 APX6000xe radios, renowned for their advanced features and reliable performance. These radios are highly suitable for our fire department's operational requirements and will facilitate seamless communication among our personnel during critical situations.
- Improved Radio Allocation: The acquisition of additional radios will enable IT to promptly assign radios to new hires and active volunteers with entry certifications, fostering a more efficient and prepared workforce.
- Enhanced Growth Capabilities: With an increased stock of radios, we can better accommodate the organization's growth and ensure that all personnel have the necessary communication equipment.
- Optimized Resource Allocation: Reducing dependence on pulling radios from low response percentage volunteers will allow IT to focus on other critical tasks, optimizing resource allocation and efficiency.
- Redundancy and Resilience: A larger pool of radios will provide redundancy, ensuring that personnel always have access to working equipment, even if some radios need to be serviced or repaired.
- Equipment Selection: Engage a reputable vendor to procure a batch of 12 APX6000xe radios, ensuring that they meet our specific operational requirements.
- Radio Configuration: Work with the vendor and IT specialists to configure the radios according to our communication protocols and standards.
- Testing and Quality Assurance: Conduct rigorous testing on the newly acquired radios to ensure optimal performance and compliance with industry standards.
- Distribution and Training: Upon receiving the radios, IT will efficiently inventory and assign the equipment to the relevant personnel and provide training on proper radio usage.
The project budget will encompass the cost of acquiring the 12 APX6000xe radios, including configuration, testing, and training expenses.
The acquisition of a batch of APX6000xe radios will significantly enhance our organization's communication capabilities and operational efficiency. By providing the necessary equipment to our personnel promptly, we can ensure that everyone is equipped to respond effectively to emergencies. We are confident that this project will have a positive impact on our fire department's overall readiness and ability to serve and protect our community.
About the Station PA Speaker Buildout Project
This project aims to address the critical issue of inadequate speakers in the bays and day rooms of a majority of our 24/7 fire stations. Currently, staff faces challenges such as draining handheld radio batteries due to continuous scanning or having to dedicate a crew member to stay in the station to monitor radio traffic. Some existing stations have lower-quality speakers or a single radio, leading to the need to turn up the volume to maximum, impacting clarity and effectiveness.
The primary objective of this project is to enhance communication efficiency and ensure reliable radio monitoring at all times. By implementing appropriate speaker buildouts tailored to the specific size, layout, and type of ceiling in each station, we aim to optimize radio reception, reduce battery usage, and improve overall operational readiness.
The proposed solution involves a comprehensive "Speaker Buildout" plan customized for each station. This plan considers the unique characteristics of each facility, including the station area, bay size, and ceiling type, to determine the most suitable speaker system that ensures clear and effective radio communication.
- Enhanced Radio Monitoring: Upgrading and strategically placing speakers in bays and day rooms will facilitate optimal radio monitoring for staff, ensuring that they stay informed on critical calls without relying on handheld radios continuously.
- Battery Conservation: With improved speaker systems, staff members will no longer need to keep their handheld radios on scanning mode, reducing battery consumption and mitigating the risk of radio failure during emergencies.
- Operational Flexibility: The improved speaker buildout will allow all crew members to participate in training or station duties while remaining connected to radio traffic, promoting greater operational flexibility.
- Clarity and Audibility: High-quality speakers will deliver clear and audible radio communications, minimizing the need to turn up the volume to maximum and ensuring all transmissions are easily understood.
- Site Evaluation: Conduct a thorough evaluation of each fire station to assess the station area, bay size, and ceiling type, which will guide the design of the appropriate speaker buildout.
- Customized Speaker System: design and install speaker systems tailored to the specific needs and layout of each station.
- Quality Equipment: Procure high-quality speakers and audio equipment from reputable vendors to ensure reliable and long-lasting performance.
- Professional Installation: Our skilled technicians will professionally install the speaker systems, optimizing placement for optimal radio coverage and clarity.
- Testing: Rigorous testing will be conducted to verify the effectiveness of the speaker buildout.
The project budget will include the cost of audio equipment procurement, and professional installation.
The implementation of a customized "Speaker Buildout" for each 24/7 fire station will substantially improve radio communication efficiency and staff operational readiness. By providing enhanced radio monitoring, conserving battery usage, and ensuring clarity in radio transmissions, this project will contribute to a safer and more effective firefighting response.
About the Troup Station 3 IT System Buildout Project
This project aims to provide seamless internet connectivity to Troup Station 3 through the implementation of microwave antennas. The proposed solution will enable the station to be equipped with access-controlled doors, significantly improving operational efficiency by eliminating the current reliance on a key holder to grant access. The station will be accessible via towers located at Troup Station 1, with Troup Station 3 requiring a 55' tower installation for optimal coverage.
The primary objective of this project is to enhance the security and accessibility of Troup Station 3 by establishing a reliable internet connection that supports access-controlled doors. This upgrade will streamline entry protocols, allowing firefighters to respond to emergencies swiftly while minimizing delays caused by the need for a key holder.
The proposed solution involves the deployment of microwave antennas, renowned for their high-speed data transmission capabilities and long-range connectivity. By leveraging this advanced technology, we can establish a secure and stable internet connection at Troup Station 3, facilitating real-time access control management.
- Enhanced Security: The installation of access-controlled doors will bolster the station's security, ensuring that only authorized personnel can gain entry. This safeguarding measure protects valuable equipment and sensitive information.
- Efficiency and Independence: Eliminating the reliance on a key holder to access the station empowers firefighters to operate independently and respond promptly to emergencies. This efficiency is vital in critical situations where every second counts.
- Cost Savings: With access-controlled doors, the need for physical keys and costly key management systems is mitigated, resulting in long-term cost savings for the fire department.
- Seamless Connectivity: The antennas guarantee reliable and uninterrupted internet connectivity, enabling smooth communication, data transfer, and remote access to essential resources.
- Site Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive site assessment to identify the optimal location and specifications for the 55' tower required at Troup Station 3.
- Equipment Procurement: Acquire the necessary antennas and associated equipment from reputable vendors known for their reliability and performance.
- Installation and Configuration: Engage experienced technicians to install and configure the antennas, ensuring optimal signal strength and network stability.
- Access-Control Integration: integrate the access-controlled doors system with the internet connectivity infrastructure.
- Testing: Conduct thorough testing of the entire system to verify its functionality.
The project budget will encompass the cost of equipment procurement, tower installation, professional services, and training.
By implementing the proposed solution of supplying internet connectivity to Troup Station 3 via antennas, we will significantly enhance the security, efficiency, and independence of the station. Access-controlled doors will empower our firefighters to perform their duties effectively and swiftly, ensuring a seamless response to emergencies. We are confident that this project will have a positive impact on our fire department's operations and the safety of our community.