News : 911 Call Centre Set to Expand Service
July 16, 2014 -- Big changes are coming for E-Comm, the people you talk to when calling 911 in Metro Vancouver.
Not only is E-Comm in the process of updating its radio system, it’s also expanding where it offers those services — specifically to northern Vancouver Island and in B.C.’s Interior.
E-Comm is located on East Pender Street in Vancouver in a building designed to withstand a major earthquake and be self-sufficient for 72 hours. That’s a very good thing, because it’s to be the hub of communications and emergency management in the event of a major quake.
But E-Comm’s daily duties are also critical. President and CEO David Guscott said the regional emergency communications centre for southwest B.C. currently handles 57 per cent of all 911 calls in the province, along with some police and fire dispatch. The 911 total will go up to 80 per cent in the fall, when the other regions’ 911 calls start being routed to Vancouver.
Lack of local knowledge when someone calls 911 is not an issue in the change, according to North Island 911 Corporation president Jon Ambler.
"We’re talking to someone that’s distraught, we’re talking to someone that’s injured, in the middle of a disaster," said Ambler.
The 911 operator is the primary public safety answering point. The operator’s role is to determine the location of the problem and whether police, fire or ambulance are required. Then the call is routed to the secondary safety answering point — police, fire or ambulance dispatch.
"The location of the 911 operator doesn’t matter," said Ambler. "Their skill is their ability to get the right story from the emergency caller. So you can be on Mars and make the call."
Fire dispatch services will continue to be provided by the Campbell River Fire Department.
Ambler said the North Island decided to analyze its options when the RCMP explained 911 costs would be going up and that 911 was "not core police business."
But it is for E-Comm, even though that business is conducted by a not-for-profit organization that operates on a cost-recovery basis.
Making similar choices to switch over in the fall were the nine regional districts around the Central Okanagan.
Their services had previously also been provided by the RCMP, which advised the districts in 2012 that costs would be going up.
Switching to E-Comm for five years will result in a reduction in overall program operating costs and a total savings.
Also saving on 911 with E-Comm compared to the RCMP will be the regional districts of Fraser-Fort George, Cariboo, Bulkley-Nechako and Kitimat-Stikine.
While E-Comm’s existing radio network works, it dates back to 1999. It is nearing the end of its service life because it’s no longer being updated and new user equipment is not being manufactured.
A request for proposals for the new radio system closed July 3, with four of five invited proponents taking part.
A contract for a new radio system is expected by the end of the year, with costs to E-Comm’s shareholders being approximately the same — albeit with an annual increase of around three per cent, according to Guscott.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About E-Comm 9-1-1:
E-Comm 9-1-1 is a multi-municipality agency that provides emergency communications operations for the region of southwest British Columbia. The company coordinates 9-1-1 service for police, fire, and ambulance service, providing call-taking and dispatch services for multiple agencies in the Lower Mainland area. E-Comm's service area covers Metro Vancouver (from Lions Bay to Langley), the Sunshine Coast Regional District, south Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Whistler-Howe Sound area serving a population of more than two million residents. The company provides call-taking for all participating municipalities, transferring incoming calls to the appropriate agency. Furthermore, E-Comm provides dispatch services for eleven police departments and nineteen fire departments.
Published: Monday, July 21, 2014