Regional emergency radio system chips away at reducing static

When a Victoria police officer radios for backup from Esquimalt, a five second delay can feel like forever.

When a Victoria police officer radios for backup from Esquimalt, a five second delay can feel like forever.

Long delays through the regional emergency communications system are rare, but dead air remains enough of a problem in pockets of Esquimalt to demand a new transmission site in the township.

Police and other users have immediate radio communication about 99.55 per cent of the time, according to a CREST data. A recent Planetworks consultant study indicated that overall, the system is working well, but has experienced call delays of more than five seconds due to heavy congestion.

“In Esquimalt there are areas were coverage isn’t as good as officers would like,” said Gord Horth, general manger of Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST).

“Officers need immediate access. If they don’t get that immediate access, the average queue is 1.2 seconds during busy times, but we have instances of three or four seconds,” Horth said. “In an emergency, counting one, two, three, four can be significant. A peak times you can get delays and we want to minimize those delays.”

Victoria police Const. Mike Russell said the Planetworks report confirms problems officers have been struggling with for years – radio interference and other technical hang-ups with the system.

“There are still issues in Esquimalt and James Bay, but we are encouraged by the (Planetworks) independent report. It validates concerns we’ve been having for years now,” Russell said. “We are encouraged CREST accepts the report and is moving forward.”

Complaints with the CREST system have ebbed since the days when police and firefighters opted to use cellphones in the face of CREST dead zones and spotty radio coverage.

CREST board chair Gordie Logan, a Colwood councillor, said the agency is continually trying to improve service in the downtown core where tall buildings and deep parking garages can kill the signal.

“When tall buildings go up, it distorts the signal, but you don’t know (the extent) until you do testing,” he noted. “There are ongoing (CREST) infrastructure upgrades in the downtown core. It won’t ever end.”

Building a transmission site in Esquimalt, and securing more frequencies for the system, are the top priorities of the agency this year. It also plans to upgrade transmission sites to improve reliability in James Bay, Saanich, Oak Bay and the West Shore.

“Complaints have dropped off compared to what they used to be. We are still working with the Victoria police to identify and address specific areas,” Logan said.

“CREST had issues in the early days, but the concept is sound,” Horth noted. ”There is always room to improve and that is the path we are on.”

Anther key task this year is convincing Industry Canada to release more radio frequencies for the system. Now serving 40 emergency agencies in the Capital Region, CREST is reaching its capacity for radio traffic, “has a limited ability to grow” and is justified in requesting five more transmission channels, Planetworks’ report said.

Horth noted that the system is working with the same frequencies as 10 years ago and transmits 8.4 million calls per year.

At the same time, the CREST board is starting to look at next generation technology to replace the existing $10.6 million system. Planetworks suggested a new system could be phased in as debt on the current system is paid out over the next three to five years.

“The system is 10 years old. We expect to replace the system in three or four years,” Logan said. “We’ll be looking at different technologies and planning how to finance that. We’ll have borrowing room when we retire the debt.”

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner’s report confirms cause of death of three men at Sooke River in 2020

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen drown while ‘puddle-jumping’ in pickup truck

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Strong winds predicted for Greater Victoria

Environment Canada issues warning for Thursday afternoon

From Feb. 25 to April 30, the Galloping Goose Trail will be reduced to a single lane between Gorge Road East and Burnside Road East for a Capital Regional District sewer line renewal project. (Map via the Capital Regional District)
CRD sewer work brings delays to Galloping Goose Trail

Parts of trail, Cecelia Ravine Park impacted until April 30

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Most Read