The transition of 9-1-1 Primary Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP) services for central Vancouver Island to E-Comm was successfully completed at 0915hrs November 17. Just eight minutes later, the first 9-1-1 call from the Central Island was received by E-Comm and transferred to the ambulance service in Victoria. This transition made E-Comm the first point of contact for 84% of British Columbia’s 9-1-1 calls.
Conrad Cowan, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s (CVRD) Public Safety Manager, acknowledged the collaborative preparation that led to the smooth transition.
“It was very beneficial having E-Comm spend time with us to ensure that we were provided with the very best tailored solutions for emergency communications and the ability to protect the public and save lives,” praised Cowan. “Having looked at all the emergency communications options available to us, from a public safety perspective, it is a pleasure knowing that we have such a dedicated organization serving our communities.”
Approximately 57,000 emergency calls are placed annually from the regional districts of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley, which are now received by E-Comm’s team of highly skilled 9-1-1 call-takers. Staff quickly confirm which agency is required and for which location and then immediately transfer the calls to local police, fire and ambulance dispatch centres.
“9-1-1 is a critical lifeline for people in need of immediate help from first responders and we are committed to providing high-quality, responsive 9-1-1 service to our new partners and the residents of central Vancouver Island,” added David Guscott, E-Comm President and CEO.
“From a public safety perspective it is a pleasure knowing that we have such a dedicated organization serving our communities.”
CVRD Public Safety Manager
The City of Nanaimo and the regional districts of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley jointly own the Central Island 9-1-1 system. They determined through an independent study that transferring Primary PSAP Services would result in considerable cost savings, while providing access to additional staffing resources and the necessary expertise to satisfy current and future technical requirements for 9-1-1.
“Public safety is always a priority and the new partnership with E-Comm will ensure our communities receive added operational and technical benefits,” explained Colin Haime, Deputy Chair of the Regional District of Nanaimo. “This includes a larger workforce to handle high call volume as well as increased security and resiliency.”
E-Comm also answers 9-1-1 calls for five other regional districts on Vancouver Island, as well as Metro Vancouver and 16 other regional districts and communities across B.C.
Radio audio quality
Radio audio quality gets thumbs up
A significant milestone was achieved in December with the formal endorsement of the new regional radio system’s network design. The Next Generation Radio Program (NGRP) is the name given to the multi-year planned initiative to replace the entire regional radio network by moving to next generation radio technology known as Project 25 (P25) in the 700 MHz band.
Based on feedback from agencies involved in hundreds of test transmissions during a successful pilot last fall, the NGRP Working Group—composed of representatives from police, fire and ambulance services across Metro Vancouver—gave its stamp of approval on the system’s performance and audio quality. With that endorsement and with the formal approval of the E-Comm User committee, also composed of senior leadership from police, fire and ambulance, the program can move forward to the next phase and remains on track for a full system roll out by the end of 2017/early 2018.
“All indications are that the new P25 radio system will outperform the existing analogue system and coverage into buildings will improve significantly.”
Deputy Fire Chief Tyler Moore,
Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services
“The priority for the pilot phase was to ensure the new network’s key functions and design met the requirements of first responders and the public safety community,” emphasized Steve Mountford, E-Comm’s Executive Director of Wireless Transformation. “We are extremely pleased that after two months of testing in noisy environments and from various locations, including challenging places such as underground parking garages and building basements, users of the system reported a high degree of confidence in the configuration of the network and the audio quality.”
Pilot testing began in October and included agency over-the-air tests, resulting in more than one-thousand transmissions over 45 days. The pilot network utilized eight radio repeater sites built and supported by E-Comm’s Wireless, Engineering and Information Technology teams. Members from user agencies were able to witness the full capabilities of the system to determine if it met their needs. At the pilot’s conclusion, agencies reported that the new radio system provided better coverage and audio performance than the existing radio system in the pilot coverage area.
“All indications are that the new P25 radio system will outperform the existing analogue system and coverage into buildings will improve significantly,” said Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services Deputy Chief Tyler Moore who participated in the pilot and is a member of both the NGRP and User committees. “This is of particular importance to all first responders and critical for firefighters who work within extremely noisy environments.”
The new system will provide radio communications for 33 agencies across Metro Vancouver and parts of the Fraser Valley and will offer better coverage, improved resiliency and enhanced voice clarity and security.
“It’s exciting to be able to move forward with this critical public safety initiative and I would like to thank all of the agencies involved for their feedback and support,” added Mountford.
An important focus for E-Comm in the first few months of 2016 will be welcoming our new police dispatch partners—the Delta and Port Moody Police Departments—into our consolidated emergency communications centre. These transitions follow two other recent successful new partnerships: 9-1-1 Primary Public Safety Answer Point services for central Vancouver Island and the Upper Fraser Valley. E-Comm is now the first point of contact for 9-1-1 callers in both these areas.
Hundreds of behind-the-scenes operational and technical requirements were carried out for each transition. I would like to thank the staff of all regional districts involved, along with our first responder partners and TELUS, for their efforts in ensuring the switch was seamless for the public.
Preparations for Delta Police Department’s integration into our communication centre remain on track for March 1. We are extremely pleased to be welcoming this progressive department to E-Comm and look forward to benefitting from the skill and expertise their staff bring to call-taking and dispatching. I am also happy to report that Port Moody police will be transitioning their call-taking and dispatch services to E-Comm May 10 and we are excited to welcome their skilled staff as well. Like Delta, we have been longtime radio partners with Port Moody police. We have also been radio and dispatch partners of Port Moody Fire-Rescue for close to 15 years and Delta Fire & Emergency Services since 2003.
The Next Generation Radio Program (NGRP) is well advanced and our staff—in partnership with representatives from police, fire and ambulance services—will continue to move the program forward in 2016. We were very pleased with the results of pilot testing and the NGRP Working Group’s endorsement of the new radio system’s network design and audio quality. With the endorsement and formal approval of the E-Comm User committee, the project can move into the next phase and remains on schedule for rollout by the end of 2017/early 2018. We have provided more detail on the NGRP in this edition of e-communiqué.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Jordan Bruce, Lori Pike and Michelle MacRae who were recently recognized by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials with the Excellence in Teamwork Award. The award recognized their exemplary dispatch service during an active shooter event in 2014. I would like to also acknowledge the Vancouver police officers involved for their skill and bravery during this dramatic situation.
Managing communication challenges during a major fuel fire was the focus of discussions during a hazardous goods exercise hosted by Delta Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) in November. The tabletop exercise, in which fire, police and ambulance representatives and other agencies participated, was based on an explosion caused by a multi-vehicle accident on Highway 91 in Delta. This marked the first time agencies from the United States joined the multi-agency scenario to evaluate call response and enhance emergency communication procedures for a large-scale incident.
“All of the participants agreed that the inclusion of agencies from across the border provided additional opportunities to further develop our capabilities in future scenarios.”
Delta Fire & Emergency Services Chief
The session focused on creating situational awareness and coordinating centralized messaging and advanced response throughout the different stages of the scenario, from initial calls coming through about the event to response and coordination. Key considerations included the establishment of unified command, protocols enacted for each agency, as well as identifying additional stakeholders to be notified of the incident as the situation unfolded. Cross-border coordination played a significant role in the exercise as representatives from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Department of Homeland Security were on hand to provide additional recommendations for enhancing emergency preparedness and response.
“The interaction and networking of the group was great to observe and be a part of,” commented DFES Chief Dan Copeland. “All of the participants agreed that the inclusion of agencies from across the border provided additional opportunities to further develop our capabilities in future scenarios.”
E-Comm’s Director of Fire Services Dave Mitchell, co-developed the exercise scenario with DFES and facilitated the session. He echoed the Chief’s comments. “Their participation allowed us to identify additional groups that should be notified to assist with resource deployment during a crisis of this kind. We look forward to their continued participation in future exercises and the possibility of on-site visits to share our experiences.”
Along with taking a leadership role in the design of the exercise, members of E-Comm’s Operations team also attended to advise on call volume management for 9-1-1, along with fire and police call-taking and dispatch. Additional topics of interest included the use of mass-calling protocols, technology interoperability challenges, use of unified platforms for mass notification of emergency services and social media for public messages.
Participants included more than 30 individuals representing 14 agencies from the Delta Police Department, DFES, BC Emergency Health Services, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, RCMP, Ministry of Transportation, Emergency Management BC, Coastal Wildfire Branch, Transport Canada, the Corporation of Delta, Surrey Fire Service and Metro Vancouver.
Public outreach key to understanding 9-1-1 system
E-Comm wrapped up 2015 by launching two of its biggest public education campaigns of the year, both of which are designed to educate the public about the proper use of 9-1-1 and increase awareness around issues that impact emergency communication centres worldwide.
“If it’s not an emergency and you call
9-1-1, this takes up a lifeline meant for those needing immediate help from first responders.”
E-Comm Director of Corporate Communications
The first campaign—Don’t let non-emergencies compete with real ones—dramatically illustrated what’s at risk when people call 9-1-1 to report non-emergencies. Elements of the four-week campaign included online animated advertisements, transit shelter ads and posters promoting a special URL (nonemergency.ca) directing people to a page on E-Comm’s website that lists local non-emergency numbers. It also included an award-winning video that overlays two situations—one emergent and one not. The video is titled Brother/Bicycle and can be viewed on E-Comm’s YouTube channel.
“Too many calls to 9-1-1 centres are actually for non-emergency matters,” explained Jody Robertson, director of Corporate Communications. “Through this campaign we wanted to show people that even though their situation might be a genuine police matter, if it’s not an emergency and they call 9-1-1, it takes up a lifeline meant for those needing immediate help from first responders.”
In December the emergency communications centre also released its annual top ten list of nuisance calls placed to 9-1-1, part of E-Comm’s continued public outreach about the importance of keeping 9-1-1 lines free for real emergencies. This year’s top reason not to call 9-1-1? Requesting the number for a local tire dealership.
“Our top ten list is an example of the type of calls that do not belong on 9-1-1 or the non-emergency lines,” Robertson added. “The goal of this campaign is to remind people not to treat 9-1-1 like an information line. Calls like this waste valuable emergency resources that would otherwise be available to someone truly in need.”
The message of both public education campaigns is very clear: Use 9-1-1 for emergencies when immediate action is needed: someone’s life or property is in jeopardy or there is a crime in progress.
A complete list of the top ten nuisance calls for 2015 can be found on ecomm911.ca along with all of E-Comm’s past public education campaigns.