Regional district opens debate on dispatch

  • Mar. 16, 2015 8:00 p.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverHaida Gwaii’s regional district directors are exploring their dispatch options with the hopes of streamlining dispatch procedures and smoothing out the geographical confusion dispatchers sometimes face when taking a call from the islands.The debate started with an issue specific to Tlell, when regional district planner Morganne Williams outlined three options to improve their fire response by outsourcing dispatch to one of three outfits: Ontario-based Northern911, Prince George-based E-comm, or Prince Rupert Fire Rescue. Williams recommended the board enter into a one-year agreement with Northern911, based on affordability and the opportunity for a short-term deal.”Northern911 is the organization Port Clements uses and say they have a good working relationship with. It is the most affordable option that was presented. It has a one-time start-up fee of $350 and then $150 per month after that and you can sign a one, two or three-year contract with no price variation,” she said. Williams noted Prince Rupert Fire Rescue would need more time before being able to provide the service, and E-comm required an immediate $5,000 investment plus either a commitment of $15,000 per fire department of fluctuating annual fees. The Village of Queen Charlotte fire department uses an off island answering system that costs under $100 per month for the service. “We have found a system that is working for us” said QC fire chief Larry Duke. The only time that this system doesn’t work is when the island loses long distance calling, which doesn’t happen a lot. It was then that chairperson Barry Pages asked if Northern911 could be an option to bring all communities under the same umbrella.”It would make sense if everybody was using the same service on the island,” he said.While the idea found support from some island directors, Port Clements Mayor Ian Gould said he has some concerns about that based on past experiences.”If we go island-wide then there is a difficulty [for dispatchers] knowing which community [the 911 call originates from]. If it’s specific to one community then it eliminates that problem. For example, in Port Clements if we provide information for just Port Clements it may be a lot cleaner that having seven communities in different areas,” he said.Gould also alluded to an incident last month when an ambulance was dispatched to Jungle Beach from Port Clements, instead of nearby Queen Charlotte, because the dispatcher in Kamloops thought it was closer.”I wonder if this is going to be a better system than what we have with BC Ambulance,” Gould said. “If we have it island-wide I can see these screw-ups regularly if it’s not specific. BC Ambulance services has their own internal system with major call centres in Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Kamloops, which is the one Haida Gwaii gets dispatched to. Kamloops call centre provides services to all communities outside the interior and Northern B.C, making it the biggest geographical dispatch operations centre in North America. Kamloops Dispatch receives over 600 calls per day and is is responsible for directing ambulances in 98 communities. Before tabling the report for next month, Pages acknowledged the geographical realities of Haida Gwaii would need to be discussed with any provider that may cover all of the islands communities.”If there are five different fire departments that Northern911 needs to get to, it is going to need to be clear that if they get the call, this is the one they need to go to,” he said.In the end directors of the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District decided to table any actions until more information could be found.

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