Netagen Talks to Tareq Cora - Communications Engineer at Toronto Fire Services

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Tareq Cora is part of the Technology Division, in particular the Radio section at the Toronto Fire Services. He is responsible for mission critical communication including the Toronto Fire Service's Radio infrastructure, Station Alerting and 911 communications. He is currently supporting two complete communication centers, 85 Fire Stations, and approximately 150 Emergency response vehicles.

Netagen caught up with Tareq Cora of Toronto Fire Services to learn more about the implementation of NG9-1-1, and the need for PSAPs to find a trusted provider to start the migration process. 

Q1. What is your role at Toronto Fire Services, and can you speak to your level of experience with NG911 in Canada?
Q2. Congratulations on your recent announcement! For people that have not been deeply involved with carrier tries etc., Can you explain what has been achieved this last week? And why is this exciting?
Q3. What impact and effect does this achievement have for all PSAPs in Canada?
Q4. What key things did you learn over the last few months about the onboarding process?
Q5. What would you do differently if you were to go through this process again? 
Q6. What role did your integration partners play in this NG9-1-1 migration?
Q7. Why did you select your chosen design and technologies for NG9-1-1?  
Q8. What are the common challenges or misconceptions when moving from the current E911 system to next generation SIP/IP based system?
Q9. What 's the best advice you can give to PSAPs that still haven't started the migration process?  

Q1. What is your role at Toronto Fire Services, and can you speak to your level of experience with NG911 in Canada  

I am a part of the Technology Division at Toronto Fire, in particular the Radio section. This section is responsible for mission critical communication including Toronto Fire’s Radio infrastructure, Station Alerting and 911 communications. Supporting 2 complete communications centers, 85 Fire Stations, and approximately 150 Emergency response vehicles. I personally also act as the Information and Technology section leader for Toronto’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team, prepared to deploy in response to large scale structural collapse events and participate in all of it’s training events.

I joined Toronto Fire in 2015 when a strategic investment was made into Toronto Fire’s telephony infrastructure to become IP ready, this identified the requirement for a skillset to support IT and IP requirements. Soon after I became very involved in the Emergency Services Working group in order to learn about NG911 and bring Toronto Fire’s communications perspective to the group. Participating and contributing to the discussions for years. After which I took ownership of the Additional Data Considerations working group and am leading the group towards submitting a report to the CRTC.    

Q2. Congratulations on your recent announcement! For people that have not been deeply involved with carrier tries etc., Can you explain what has been achieved this last week? And why is this exciting?

I am very proud of the fact that Toronto Fire is the first to complete test calls to it’s preproduction environment as part of the official onboarding process with Bell. It is very exciting, as it showcases and proves years worth of work by the industry and to finally see a working implementation of the new NG9-1-1 system.

There are many highly complex moving parts, involving experts from different divisions and business partners, that have been work together for years in order to reach this milestone. The onboarding requirements push the envelope beyond what is done on a daily basis, including  cutting edge enterprise to enterprise level networking which might be typical work for the telecom industry but is not something we face on a day to day basis from a municipal technology support team perspective.

Q3. What impact and effect does this achievement have for all PSAPs in Canada?

In my opinion, this achievement is another milestone that indicates to other municipalities or responsible organizations that this change and migration to NG9-1-1 is real. It’s no longer a theoretical discussion. That it is a significant change and it is coming. Agencies that have yet to start should take this milestone as a sign that the ship is sailing and action is needed for them to remain onboard.

Q4. What key things did you learn over the last few months about the onboarding process?     

The onboarding templates and processes are well done by the Bell team, but it is new and a lot of learning is taking place by all parties as we worked through the documentation. Since not all tests are successful troubleshooting sessions and many back and forth is often required to identify issues and tweak configurations. Since it’s a complex multi divisional requirement, I believe access to experts will become the number one challenge for organizations as more orders are awarded.

Q5. What would you do differently if you were to go through this process again?

This is something I have been advocating in the ESWG, as well, but it would be highly beneficial for organizations to ensure the networking design and implementation component for both the local LAN and ESINET Interworking, is also part of the contract awarded. it will make it simpler to access specialized resources that are experienced in the specific type of networking required to connect to the ESINET. Having said that I am very proud of our City of Toronto Technology Division specifically the network group, that were able to step up and accomplish this complex task.

Q6. What role did your integration partners play in this NG9-1-1 migration?      

I am very proud our business partners. Netagen, Avaya, and Komutel brought very high quality, dedicated and very experienced personnel that have a passion for implementing this system. It was clear that years of work and development was dedicated by this team, leading to and supporting the NG9-1-1 trials bringing an NG9-1-1 ready solution to the table. Whether it’s account and project managers, infrastructure and call flow design engineers, technology specialists or developers they would all roll up their sleeves and spend as many hours as required to resolve any issues that have been identified. I am often impressed by the level or personal commitment, the high quality of work, product and documentation produced by team. I am confident, and has been my experience so far, that regardless of what the contract states they will always bring a high level of professionalism and ensure we resolve any issues.

Q7. Why did you select your chosen design and technologies for NG9-1-1?        

The chosen design leverages technologies that have been in enterprise environments, including public safety, for many, many, years. This includes the ability to deploy the entire backend solution onto off the shelf virtualization technologies, which provides a much higher level of implementation flexibility than traditional on premise technology deployments. I am also very proud of leveraging Avaya’s very powerful and tested SIP routing and manipulation capabilities that enabled us to tweak the call flow at every step to make it act in exactly the way we imagined.

Q8. What are the common challenges or misconceptions when moving from the current E911 system to next generation SIP/IP based system?

In my opinion, it’s highly underestimated how many different moving parts are involved in making this system operational, any procurement taking place must ensure there is a significant gap analysis study to identify what’s in scope of the awarded contract and what is out of scope, specifically as it pertains to the responsibility by the agency to provide the proper infrastructure and networking to be ready to absorbs the vendor’s systems.

Q9. What's the best advice you can give to PSAPs that still haven't started the migration process?      

Start now, identify the procurement strategy, take a deep view into the contracts and identify the gaps.

Also, a big implementation success has been to introduce softphone technologies to staff as early as possible, this allowed us to have significant input from our communications staff into what the solution needs to support, such as desk configurations and the integration into the current operational environment.

We hope you found what Tareq had to say as informative as we did. If you're looking for a trusted technology provider to devise an easy-to-follow NG9-1-1 migration plan for your current 9-1-1 call management infrastructure, contact us for a free consultation!