Could your 9-1-1- call get lost in the shuffle? (continued)
It fails to deal with other vital end of the communication circle: What happens when you or your neighbour call 9-1-1 to report an incident or request an emergency service?
The 9-1-1 operator can’t access CREST but must decide how to redirect your call to one of six dispatch centres.
A resident of Esquimalt calling 9-1-1 has their call directed to the Victoria Police Department (VicPD) by the Telus network. But a fire call must be re-directed to Saanich Fire dispatch and then back to Esquimalt Fire Department.
A fire report from Colwood is routed to Saanich Fire dispatch and then the Colwood Fire Department is called upon to respond. Police calls are dealt with by West Shore RCMP.
All emergency medical calls are first routed to one of three police 9-1-1 call centres and then transferred to the central Provincial Ambulance Service dispatch facility that handles all ambulance calls originating from Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and points on the North Coast.
9-1-1 operators in the three combined police dispatch/9-1-1 call centres make fire referrals to one of three fire dispatch centres.
West Shore RCMP dispatch communicates with all RCMP personnel within the CRD, including the Peninsula and Gulf Islands, and also dispatches Central Saanich Police.
VicPD dispatches for Victoria and Esquimalt (as VicPD polices both) and Saanich Police Department dispatch also handles Oak Bay calls.
Victoria Fire dispatch looks after Victoria fire calls only. Saanich Fire dispatches for Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Colwood, View Royal, Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney Fire Departments.
The Langford Fire Department dispatches Langford, Sooke, Metchosin, Highlands, and all other volunteer fire departments within the CRD, including the Gulf Islands.
A 9-1-1 call to report a robbery at Tillicum could involve at least four police departments, depending on whether the assailant flees through Esquimalt, Victoria, View Royal or Saanich.
While CREST provides the means for all emergency responders to communicate amongst themselves, the existence of three police and another three fire dispatch centres, along with a separate BC Ambulance Service dispatch, complicates and compromises overall emergency response services to the people of the region.
In Metro Vancouver, E-Comm, a centralized communication centre, serves 15 police agencies and 18 fire departments. Calgary has one centre for fire, police and emergency services.
See the current 9-1-1 flow chart and comparison with Metro Vancouver and Calgary.
Major crimes, fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters don’t respect municipal boundaries. We need to be able help one other. Many small municipalities have limited or no capacity to provide emergency response and will require assistance from their larger neighbours, placing an additional burden on Saanich or Victoria.
A recent CRD initiative formalizes a well-intentioned and necessary inter-municipal partnership to share information on emergency planning but does nothing to provide resources to deliver adequate response. The Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) must coordinate with 12 separate municipal emergency plans.
A unified emergency management service is badly needed. See Disaster and Emergency Response, Victoria style. Does any of this make sense?
- Colin Nielsen and James Anderson