Strengthening public safety across British Columbia

In keeping with its (a)SPIRE 2025 strategic plan, E-Comm continually looks for ways to strengthen its services and deliver public safety communications matched to the emerging needs of communities across B.C. From further expanding the number of users on its multi-jurisdictional, tri-service emergency radio system, to advocating for opportunities for the public to use the 9-1-1 system to access emergency services beyond the traditional “police, fire, ambulance”, E-Comm is committed to the expansion of emergency communications across B.C.

E-Comm’s Wide-Area Radio Network has grown steadily over the years and continues to provide interoperable communications for its public safety partners. As the population in the Metro Vancouver region grows and new developments are built, E-Comm is not just increasing its capacity to add more radios, it is also expanding the radio network to provide a wider geographical footprint, allowing public safety agencies to access a common radio system to support emergency services across the province. This means a more efficient response during cases of inter-agency support in mutual aid scenarios, disaster response, police pursuits and cross municipal-border crime investigations.

Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Mike Larsson
Abbotsford Fire Chief Don Beer

Despite the pandemic, E-Comm has still been able to bring two new agency partners onto the Wide-Are Radio Network. Both the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service and Pitt Meadows Fire & Rescue Services transitioned onto E-Comm’s radio network since 2020.

“Joining the E-Comm radio system is a critical part of keeping our first responders and the public safe in an emergency. Being able to have our first responders access and share information with each other, as quickly and efficiently as possible, will allow for better response that meets the safety needs of our community.”

Bill Dingwall,
Pitt Meadows Mayor
Expansion Illustration Clip

In addition to our usual expansions within the first responder community, E-Comm has also welcomed several municipal radio users in the last couple of years. Through this natural expansion of our radio technology services, critical service providers like the Vancouver Park Rangers and TransLink’s Coast Mountain Bus, who often work with emergency personnel to resolve public safety issues, are able to communicate directly with first responders during critical situations—a huge step to strengthening public safety in parks and on the transit system. As E-Comm expands its radio network, each additional transition builds a stronger ecosystem of public safety communications.

Further aligned with its mission to help saves lives and protect property, E-Comm also maintains a strong position on the need to transform 9-1-1 emergency communications to better support some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, while also offering improved assistance and communication to our police partners responding to critical situations within these communities.

Currently, when an individual calls 9-1-1 in British Columbia, they are presented with three options: police, fire or ambulance. Unless the nature of the emergency is clearly best suited for response by a fire department or ambulance, the call is most likely transferred to a police agency. Despite increasing numbers of complex social issues reported via 9-1-1, the options for addressing these varied circumstances have remained the same.

E-Comm presented to the B.C. Legislature’s Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, in early 2021, to discuss the future of emergency communications services. The presentation, Opportunities to End Public Safety Inequities by Transforming B.C.’s 9-1-1 Emergency Communications System, highlights two opportunities: specialized emergency response services for complex social issues to be selection options when calling 9-1-1; and enhanced emergency communication centres to relieve patrol officers from routine interactions and introduce more deeply-skilled resources to help resolve police calls.

Aligned with the recommendations of the Special Committee’s mandate to make recommendations on reforms to help modernize policing in B.C., E-Comm believes there are options to be considered related to emergency communications which would assist in delivering on the committee’s mandate. These include making recommendations concerning the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction, along with addressing the issue of systemic racism within B.C. police agencies.