Lead­ers re­act to 911 ex­pan­sion plans

Car­bon­ear mayor calls idea ‘ab­so­lutely great’ and ‘long over­due’

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA GRIF­FIN

Mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers and emer­gency re­spon­ders in the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion are weigh­ing in on plans to ex­pand 911 emer­gency call­ing ser­vices provincewide.

The chief of the Bay Roberts Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, Adam Nor­man, de­scribed last week’s an­nounce­ment as a “good step for­ward.”

“We’re kind of lag­ging be­hind the rest of Canada,” Nor­man told The Com­pass dur­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view on Tues­day, May 20.

Pla­cen­tia Mayor Wayne Power said in his com­mu­nity some vis­i­tors and lo­cals are not aware of the dif­fer­ent emer­gency num­bers to call. There are three dif­fer­ent num­bers for an am­bu­lance, the fire depart­ment, and the po­lice, he ex­plained.

This plan will sim­plify the process by which a res­i­dent can sum­mon emer­gency as­sis­tance.

“It’ll be eas­ier for res­i­dents with one num­ber,” said Power, who op­er­ates an am­bu­lance ser­vice.

Car­bon­ear Mayor Ge­orge Butt said it is “ab­so­lutely great.”

“We haven’t got all the de­tails on it yet, but it’s long over­due,” Butt said.

911 chal­lenges

Chief Nor­man said the ser­vice is much-needed, but ac­knowl­edged it’s go­ing to come with some chal­lenges.

“It’s go­ing to take some work from dif­fer­ent de­part­ments and dif­fer­ent mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to de­cide whom to call, for what ar­eas, to dis­tin­guish for the oper­a­tors,” said Nor­man.

For ex­am­ple, there are six fire de­part­ments with re­spon­si­bil­ity for dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way.

“We’re not ex­actly sure how it’s go­ing to work,” added Mayor Butt.

Con­cerns have also been raised about the fact that not all homes are clearly num­bered, mak­ing it chal­leng­ing for re­spon­ders to find the cor­rect civic ad­dress in a timely fash­ion.

“Try­ing to get ev­ery­body to put their num­bers on their house, that’s been a chal­lenge for years,” said Butt.

911 team and fee

Of­fi­cials with the provin­cial govern­ment said they are com­mit­ted to provincewide 911 ser­vices by De­cem­ber 2014, and a 911 project im­ple­men­ta­tion team is now in place.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, a gov­ern­ing body will be es­tab­lished known as the “NL Bureau Inc.”

The re­lease ex­plained that the bureau will func­tion as a non-profit cor­po­ra­tion. It will be re­spon­si­ble for es­tab­lish­ing and op­er­at­ing 911 tele­phone ser­vices. A board of di­rec­tors will be ap­pointed to over­see the oper­a­tion.

To ex­pand the ser­vice, sub­scribers of wire­less and land­line tele­phone ser­vices will be charged a monthly levy, which will be un­der $1 a month.

It will also help de­velop and im­ple­ment Next Gen­er­a­tion 911 and other tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments.

Once the ser­vices are ex­panded, 911 will be avail­able to all res­i­dents via land­line. The ser­vice is al­ready avail­able to those us­ing cell­phones.

“And it’s not go­ing to cost an aw­ful lot of money to have it,” said Butt.

Bill 14

The Emer­gency 911 Act will al­low for the cre­ation of NL 911 Bureau, al­low for the es­tab­lish­ment of a board of di­rec­tors by the end of 2014, re­quire mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and emer­gency ser­vice providers ( fire, am­bu­lance, po­lice) to iden­tify their emer­gency re­sponse zones, de­fine the bound­aries for the call-tak­ing cen­tres, also known as pub­lic safety an­swer­ing points.

The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of these zones will en­able the 911 Im­ple­men­ta­tion Team to ac­cu­rately de­fine the ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries of the emer­gency ser­vice re­spon­ders.

To date, 40 per cent of the prov­ince’s pop­u­la­tion is cov­ered by ba­sic 911 ser­vices on land­line tele­phones. These ar­eas are the North­east Avalon, Cor­ner Brook/Bay of Is­lands, Labrador City and Wabush.

The re­main­der of the pop­u­la­tion are re­quired to dial a seven-digit lo­cal num­ber in the event of an emer­gency.

Lo­cal lead­ers say it’s a pro­gres­sive move from the provin­cial govern­ment.

“It’s a step in the right di­rec­tion,” said Power.

— Laura Grif­fin is com­plet­ing a field place­ment at The Com­pass as part of a two-year pro­gram in jour­nal­ism at the Stephenville cam­pus of the Col­lege of the North At­lantic. She can be reached at edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca.

Adam Nor­man

Ge­orge Butt

Wayne Power

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