While it can be argued that not every business needs to be fully operational 100% of the time, for public safety agencies that are in the “business” of serving the public and saving lives, the need to be on 24/7 couldn’t be more true. A split second can mean the difference between an injury, rescue, or a fatality, so uninterrupted availability of critical systems is of the utmost importance.
Historically, dispatch and respond centers have been built and operated by single agencies for their own specific uses — with IT and communications systems disconnected and sprawled out across numerous facilities — making it challenging for agencies to streamline and operationalize mission critical functions and emergency operations. Additionally, emergency operations centers, 911 call centers, and police and fire departments can face technology constraints due to outdated legacy systems that can hinder data interoperability and the ability to rapidly scale IT infrastructure and operations. This limits the ability for agencies to quickly respond to large scale disaster recovery efforts or unexpected surges in incident response requests.
In the case of Leon County and the City of Tallahassee, FL, all emergency functions were diversified throughout the community, most of which existed in sub-standard spaces without the necessary backup power supplies, sufficient redundancy, and common processes to support operations during catastrophic emergency events or even routine incidents. For instance, with emergency call services operating out of different locations with different dispatch systems, incoming calls oftentimes had to be re-routed between the county and the city, resulting in a vital loss of time.
“The criticality and function of our facility is wholly dependent on a clean and continuous supply of electrical power. Even if servers go down or phone systems are out, most of our operations and functions could continue to operate. But if power goes down, as it has from the public utility several times in the past, the facility would cease to function,” said Carl Morgan, construction manager for Leon County. “We must ensure that the people of the community are protected at all times. A power loss could mean the loss of life and this is simply unacceptable.”
To address the issues of efficiency, reliability, and flexibility of their critical systems, Leon County government and the City of Tallahassee decided to come together to create a first-of-its-kind mission-critical facility to consolidate both county and city services including the City of Tallahassee Regional Transportation Management, the Leon County Emergency Operations Center, the Consolidated Dispatch Agency, the Leon County Emergency Medical Services, and the Tallahassee Fire Department Administration. The project brought together employees, equipment, and communications under one roof with the goal of better serving the community’s more than 280,000 residents.
DESIGNING THE SAFETY COMPLEX OF THE FUTURE
To create an efficient, integrated services complex, planning was an essential step toward success. Not only was space to be considered for both people and equipment, but reliability and scalability of critical systems were vital to creating an emergency services complex and data center that would deliver consistent uptime and be able to serve a growing population for years to come. In addition, special attention was paid to both minimizing recurring costs from energy consumption and the overall efficiency of product maintenance.
Critical Components Incorporated (CCI) was brought in to support the preconstruction design phase of the project. CCI worked with city and county managers to create the specs to support the bidding process. While each department had certain unique needs, several common requirements for the data center equipment emerged as necessary for the mission-critical facility. These included:
Highest level of availability and uptime
A visit to the Schneider Electric Technology Center (SETC) in St. Louis provided the opportunity to get a hands-on demonstration of potential products and solutions that could be used in the project. In the end, the design construction team choose two APC by Schneider Electric Symmetra MW UPS systems to meet scalability demands, InRow Chilled Water Cooling with EcoAisle Containment to increase efficiency and simplify cooling, and StruxureWare for Data Centers to provide a snapshot view of facility operations and efficiency — all supported by a five-year service agreement.
DRIVING GREATER EFFICIENCY AND COST CONTROL
To meet scalability demands, UPS systems were implemented to provide a redundant, scalable power protection system designed to cost effectively provide high levels of availability. This uninterruptable power source was essential to serve critical circuits demand in the complex and provide power reliability to the data center. Furthermore, the system provides a scalable solution that will meet the needs of the county’s growing population, which has nearly doubled since 1980 and is projected to reach nearly 300,000 by 2020.
The cooling system in the data center uses InRow cooling units with intelligent controls that can actively adjust fan speed and chilled water flow to match the IT heat load to maximize efficiency and simplify cooling. The cooling process also meets the ASHRAE class 1 and 2 standards. For redundancy, the data center houses 20 cooling units, each with eight independent fans placed on an N+1 redundancy, which is imperative for a mission-critical facility such as this.
The data center’s DCIM solution enables facility managers to monitor, collect, and manage data, and optimize operation of the complex. The software is designed to collect and manage data related to a data center’s assets, resource use, and operation status. This information is then distributed, integrated, and applied in ways that help managers optimize the data center’s performance and meet the complex’s and IT’s business- and service-oriented goals. The software enables monitoring of all four independent data center rack clusters at once, making it easy to see what is happening across the entire system. This real-time data enables adjustments to be made on demand and is vital to keep the complex’s data operations consolidated for more efficiency.
Leon County also purchased a five-year agreement to ensure proper maintenance on the data center would be carried out over time. When equipment requires replacing, a team from Schneider Electric comes in and quickly troubleshoots.
A ROADMAP FOR SUCCESS
After approximately two years in the facility, the area has experienced eight power outages yet the facility itself has had no impact on operation.
The complex runs 24/7 with approximately 150 employees working onsite during the day, 30 to 40 overnight and on weekends, and up to 400 during an emergency center activation. As a result, the facility runs the highest load factor of any facility in Leon County. However, it also runs at the lowest kWh unit cost because of the planning, equipment, reporting, and dedication of an experienced and knowledgeable maintenance team that contributes to its efficiency.
The data center itself is 2,500 sq ft, and the complex is supported by a generator plant robust enough to power over 300 homes. The building is FEMA P-361 tornado shelter rated and meets Department of Defense antiterrorism standards. The Tallahassee/Leon County Public Safety Complex is seen as a roadmap for other states and counties around the country with representatives from locations across the U.S. coming to Tallahassee to learn more about the complex, how it was built, how it’s working, and how they can take these valuable lessons back to their own municipalities.
The close proximity has made things more streamlined for employees and the people they serve.
“The most important result is our ability to better serve our community and make it safer for our residents,” said Morgan. “The complex has given responders the ability to collaborate and share information and data across entities, prepare for natural disasters, and have everyone in the same place for response planning. And, because of the forethought and planning that went into the design of the complex, it will be able to provide service to the area for years to come.”