If there is a time to do infrastructure upgrades for the emergency services in Bonnyville, now would be the time to start looking at it, said Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority fire chief Jay Melvin.
In preparation for Next Generation 911, the Canada-wide program that will allow people to send pictures, videos and texts to emergency services by 2023, Melvin gave an update to Bonnyville town council on the challenges moving toward the next system.
“We know right now we’re at max capacity. It was proposed that if we’re going to look at anything, is this the right time that we look at new infrastructure? Instead of putting all the resources into an old system into an old confined space area within the 911 Center,” said Melvin.
Mayor Gene Sobolewski said the town will work with the BRFA to see if a move from the Ambulance Hall is necessary.
“Our existing facility that we’re housing 911 is basically at 110 per cent capacity. There’s got to be some thought of where to relocate it. I don’t know whether or not the wholesale moving of the ambulance with it as well is part of that. There were questions in regards to that.
“Basically, the BRFA is putting together a plan to cover us off for the next couple of years to say, ok, here is where we have to move, such that when the trigger is pulled and switch is lifted, we’re ready to go with the Next Gen 911,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski on The Morning After.
Melvin requested that council help lobby the provincial government for secure funding and also to evaluate whether infrastructure upgrades are warranted to handle the new system.
“The funding from the province is only going towards the call handling portion, which is only a portion of the total cost of the 9-1-1,” he said.
“The presentation I made to council last night is we need the province to have a look at the current funding model and adjust it to make sure the PSAPS (Public Safety Answering Points) are properly funded through the grant program to support Next Generation 911 so it’s not a burden on the municipality that runs the PSAP,” said Melvin.
The Bonnyville PSAP responds all across the Lakeland, including to Smoky Lake County, County of St. Paul, M.D. of Bonnyville, Elizabeth Metis, Cold Lake First Nations, Kehewin, Frog Lake, and Fishing Lake Metis.
Upgrades have already happened towards IP based phones and touch screen computers at the PSAP, but many more will have to be made under the strict CRTC guidelines and limited areas of funding to work with.
“We’ve got several years before the deadline. Do we now put the put two wheels in motion to look at new infrastructure? That’s on the table as an option to not only look at possibly moving but building a new 911 Center, which is really a regional project,” said Melvin.