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RFID Protects 911 Center From IT Emergencies

To prevent its electronic equipment from being damaged due to excessive heat, El Paso County's 911 facility is using active tags with temperature-tracking sensors.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 10, 2009The El Paso County 911 District, in Texas, serves more than 700,000 residents. Operators working there process more than 45,000 emergency calls every month.

In May 2009, Ray Perez, the district's assistant director, was enjoying his wedding anniversary with his wife in Las Vegas when he received a call informing him that the temperature within the 1,300-square-foot equipment room of the county's 911 facility was nearing 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The room houses 8-foot-tall racks of telecommunications equipment, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system that includes cabinets storing 42 batteries, and servers that operate the county 911 district's e-mail, BlackBerry and administrative networks.

One of the room's two Liebert cooling units had failed due to a malfunctioning fan, and it wasn't until a 911 staff member happened into the room and noticed the temperature rise that it was addressed. Mechanical technicians had to be called in, and fortunately managed to prevent serious damage to any of the room's electronic equipment. Because there are multiple cooling units, however, the 911 service's ability to operate had not been in jeopardy.

Once back in his office, Perez began seeking a solution. Ultimately, he selected an RFID-based system from RF Code that tracks the temperatures in the facility's equipment room and offices, and sends an alert to Perez's and other staff members' BlackBerries in the event of a temperature fluctuation beyond the preset acceptable threshold.

The 911 call center—which also includes a communication room where workers receive and process emergency calls—is located in the three-story, 50,000-square-foot county building, where it occupies approximately half the space on one floor. The remainder of the site is used for administrative offices and storage. The equipment room requires that the temperature remain between about 69 and 77 degrees.

To control the entire building's temperature, the center maintains seven Liebert cooling and heating units, as well as 12 Trane units, on the roof. Traditionally, before the RFID system's deployment, if any of the equipment failed, Perez or another staff member would have to notice the problem and adjust the units' controls accordingly. "I'm on call 24-7," Perez says, noting that if someone did detect a problem, they would then inform him by phone.

One board member of the El Paso County 911 District was familiar with RF Code's work, and suggested Perez give the company a call. "My main concern was to be proactive rather than reactive," he says. He wanted a system that could alert him immediately if a unit failed or anything else caused a temperature fluctuation—long before that incident could damage IT equipment or create some other problem.

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