Dispatch services for Capital Region fire departments could be next to move into the CRD’s South Island E-Comm 911/Police Centre in Saanich.
All five Saanich representatives on the CRD board are behind a motion that proposes CRD staff run a feasibility study on creating a unified CRD fire department dispatch at the newly opened, ideally at the $13 million South Island E-Comm post-disaster that’s up-and-running and handles 911 and police dispatch for 15 municipalities on the South Island.
“This is a bold step by Saanich mayor and council to aid in the region’s step forward towards a unified fire dispatch,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes. “We’re suggesting a new regional fire dispatch provided at the South Island 911/Police Dispatch Centre. We believe there’s capacity there and that it’s the most logical place to set up a regional fire dispatch.”
CRD Board Chair and Saanich Coun. Colin Plant will bring the item to the table during the Wednesday morning CRD Planning and Protective Services Committee meeting. Representing Saanich on the bill are Haynes, Plant, and Couns. Susan Brice, Rebecca Mersereau, and Ned Taylor.
The report says Saanich is prepared to release its current agreement with E-Comm and the right of first refusal in provision of E-Comm dispatch service agreements in the CRD. At the moment, that current agreement is on the technology side, “through E-Comm’s computer-aided dispatch system developed for fire services,” said Jasmine Bradley, spokesperson for EComm911.
E-Comm doesn’t provide fire dispatch services anywhere on Vancouver Island, she said.
Last year Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal, North Saanich and Sidney let their fire dispatch contracts with Saanich expire and opted to go with Surrey. That decision came when Saanich announced that it would increase its charges to make up for a shortfall of actual costs.
The discussion to create a united dispatch service for CRD fire departments has lingered for years.
“This would be fair and equitable way for all players in the CRD,” Haynes said. “We believe an integrated fire dispatch is in the best interest and safety and well being of all residents.”
The motion also would also consider the CRD compensate Saanich for its earlier investment in the setting up the post-disaster Saanich Emergency Services building at 770 Vernon Ave.
“We took on the investment that was needed to deliver that service, having it in place, we were able to offer it to other municipalities,” Haynes said.
Saanich Fire currently operates both its own and Oak Bay Fire’s dispatch out of the Saanich Emergency Services building at 770 Vernon Ave.
All 911 calls are directed to the new E-Comm Centre for Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria police departments and for 11 RCMP detachments in the central and southern Vancouver Island region. Each transitioned to the centre on a staggered schedule since Jan. 1 with Victoria Police phasing in on Jan. 22, Saanich and Oak Bay on Jan. 29, and other agencies, such as the South Island RCMP and Central Saanich on Feb. 5. Fire and ambulance services are re-directed from the centre to the appropriate dispatch.
The two-storey South Island E-Comm Centre in Commerce Circle has 70 employees at the moment with space on the dispatch floor.