On­tario to up­grade emer­gency ra­dio net­work, called the ‘lifeblood’ of first re­spon­ders

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - SHAWN JEFFORDS

TORONTO — The On­tario gov­ern­ment plans to re­build the ag­ing ra­dio net­work first re­spon­ders across the prov­ince rely on dur­ing emer­gen­cies, say­ing up­grades are sorely needed.

Pre­mier Doug Ford said Thurs­day that the pub­lic safety ra­dio net­work is prone to daily out­ages and must be mod­ern­ized.

The net­work cov­ers 750,000 square kilo­me­tres across the prov­ince, in­clud­ing ar­eas in the north where cell­phone ser­vice is not avail­able, and helps first re­spon­ders com­mu­ni­cate and co-or­di­nate dur­ing for­est fires, po­lice op­er­a­tions and med­i­cal emer­gen­cies.

“You need mod­ern, re­li­able equip­ment,” Ford said while speak­ing to a group of first re­spon­ders near Al­lis­ton. “Sadly, On­tario’s pub­lic safety ra­dio net­work is out­dated.”

Ford wouldn’t say how much the re­build will cost tax­pay­ers, adding that those de­tails will be re­leased once a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process for the project is com­plete.

Com­mu­nity Safety Min­is­ter Michael Ti­bollo said the ra­dio sys­tem is the “lifeblood” of emer­gency re­sponse in the prov­ince but was last up­graded 20 years ago. “Pause for a sec­ond and think where com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy was a gen­er­a­tion ago com­pared with where we are to­day,” he said.

Ti­bollo said first re­spon­ders had voiced con­cerns about the ag­ing sys­tem and noted that it ex­pe­ri­ences fre­quent fail­ures. The sys­tem is so out­dated the prov­ince has had to look on Ki­jiji to find re­place­ment parts, he added.

“The ra­dios that they use to­day are ob­so­lete,” he said. “You’d have a bet­ter chance of walk­ing into a Best Buy to­day to pur­chase a tube tele­vi­sion than we’ve had re­plac­ing those ra­dios.”

Ti­bollo said the com­pany that suc­cess­fully bids for the project will build and ser­vice the pub­lic ra­dio net­work for 15 years.

The up­graded net­work is ex­pected to be fully op­er­a­tional by 2023, the gov­ern­ment said.

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