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News : Emergency 911 Calls Go to Vancouver not Kelowna this Fall
July 2, 2014 -- The 911 operator you call in an emergency this fall will be in the Lower Mainland.
The telecommunications centre on Acland Road is moving out of Kelowna to Vancouver to save taxpayers' money in the Central Okanagan and eight other regional districts. Starting Nov. 18, all 911 calls will be answered by E-Comm, a private emergency-call centre at the Coast.
By contracting out the service, the Regional District of the Central Okanagan will save in operating costs over five years, said spokesman Bruce Smith. The eight other regional districts, which include North Okanagan and Okanagan-Similkameen, share in savings over the same period.
Until now, the RCMP provided the service to all nine Interior districts at its Southeast District operations centre near Reid's Corner. The operators who ask "police, fire or ambulance – how may I direct your call?" and transfer callers to the appropriate agency have been stationed at the Kelowna RCMP office since 1988.
The Mounties announced in 2012 they planned to raise their fees significantly for the service, said RDCO Chair Robert Hobson. After a review, the district signed the five-year contract with E-Comm.
Three staff operators will be laid off this fall. They can apply for jobs that come up within the regional district or the RCMP, Smith said. Another nine positions filled by contract workers or RCMP staff will be phased out.
Despite the distance to the Coast, public safety remains the top priority, Hobson said.
"E-Comm’s outstanding track record of high quality and reliable 911 answering services means . . . there will be professionally handled, quick responses to their initial emergency calls."
Last year, the Kelowna centre handled 226,796 emergency calls made in the nine regional districts. E-Comm, which provides emergency-call service to Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, received 861,694 calls in 2013. Besides the Southern Interior, it plans to expand into Vancouver Island and Central B.C., Smith said.
The company says operators answered 98 per cent of last year's calls within five seconds. Its Vancouver building is designed to resist a major earthquake and to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, Smith said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, July 7, 2014