From left, Clermont Police Chief Charles Broadway, City of Clermont IT Director Don Dennis, and Seth Bartee and Amy Pontillo, both of TraCS, worked together to restore TraCS’ servers.

Clermont has come to the rescue in an unusual but important way in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

The City of Clermont today helped restore about 200 Florida law enforcement agencies’ access to a critical software they use to file traffic crash and citation reports from the road.

Mike Wilkinson was brought in to help, as well as TraCS’ Amy Pontillo, seen with TraCS’ servers inside Clermont Police Department.

Hurricane Michael’s destruction on Oct. 10 had cut off power to the software’s servers, which were housed inside Panama City Police Department in the Florida Panhandle.

The data hosting site was delivered to the Clermont Police Department on Oct. 15 and a team worked intently to get it up and running.

“It’s the least we could do to help,” City Manager Darren Gray said. “This software is critical to thousands of police officers’ daily duties, and our state-of-the-art police department has the advanced capabilities needed to house their servers.”

Traffic and Criminal Software (TraCS), a grant-funded project run by Florida State University (FSU) and paid for by the Florida Department of Transportation, provides the aforementioned software free to agencies. TraCS is used to file about one-third of the state’s crash reports (about 225,000), as well as millions of citations a year.

In the handful of days TraCS’ servers were down, police officers tediously handwrote and physically delivered reports, causing delays and increasing the likelihood of inaccuracies, said Amy Pontillo, systems architect for Florida State University (FSU) with TraCS.

Several agencies approached TraCS to host their servers. “We chose Clermont because of the good working relationship we’ve had with them,” Pontillo said. “We were looking for a disaster recovery site and were in talks with the City of Clermont (since summer). Turns out we needed one sooner than [anticipated].”

City of Clermont IT Department’s System Administrator Wayne Fountain works with Mike Wilkinson to get TraCS’ servers running.

Clermont PD’s server room had to meet Criminal Justice Information Services compliance, which included rekeying the locks. Also, the city doubled its internet bandwidth, dedicated specific IP addresses and tackled other logistics to connect TraCS through the city’s router to the internet, which was done quickly overnight with Florida LambdaRail’s help.

“Anything we needed, they supplied,” Pontillo said. “Anything last minute, they helped us get it sorted out with a smile on their faces.”

TraCS plans to return the data hosting site to its primary location at Panama City Police Department eventually, Pontillo said. Clermont Police Department will remain the designated backup location.

“Because we were already negotiating to act as a backup site, it was opportune to help escalate that to help restore critical service,” City of Clermont IT Director Don Dennis said. “There was never a question about if we can do something; it was how quickly we could do it. Everybody pulled together to make it happen in a very timely manner.”

In 2015, in planning for Clermont’s new police station, Dennis had the foresight to design the server room to meet more robust data standards – ensuring its own air conditioning, multiple power supplies and a chemical fire suppression system.

Clermont’s location in the center of the state, as well as its high elevations, make it less likely to flood or be taken down by a hurricane, too.

“We’re glad to be a part of the solution and that TraCS is back up and running to serve the various agencies around the state,” Clermont Police Chief Charles Broadway said.

TraCS is paying to use the site, which will compensate for the electricity, internet and staffing costs, helping to recoup some of the data center’s operating expenses.

“Clermont saved the state,” said Seth Bartee, system administrator for FSU with TraCS. “By Clermont opening their doors for us to house our servers, they’re going to make police officers’ jobs easier.”

The City of Clermont also is in discussions with Lake-Sumter State College about acting as a backup for their internet connection through Florida LambdaRail.


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