The town had asked the departments to respond back by Sept. 24, but last month a 45-day extension was asked for, and granted, as departments strongly felt that mutual aid should be considered if a new funding formula for dispatch services is going to be considered.
In its August letter to the fire chiefs, the town had noted that any department choosing another provider would be removed from the funding equation, which would impact the funding rates for others that remain.
“Obviously there is a tipping point at which the Town of Yarmouth might decide there is insufficient interest, and too high a cost, to continue to offer the service,” that letter read.
The amount the town had been looking to bill the seven departments that have indicated they will be leaving the Yarmouth dispatch centre totals $40,198.
There was no discussion about any ‘tipping point’ at last week’s committee of the whole meeting.
But while fire departments say they are leaving the Yarmouth dispatch centre, it’s not an immediate departure, Chief Verrall says, explaining there are steps that have to be taken before a department can leave its current dispatch service.
He says if a fire department is switching its dispatch service, 911 – which is run by Emergency Measures Organization – has to be informed and given time to take all of the necessary steps for the switchover before it happens.
“To just say, ‘Tomorrow we’re switching over,’ you can’t do that because you’ve got to have 911 all (lined up) in a row.”
This includes, the chief says, 911 knowing what numbers to call for a specific department, how to page each department, what the areas of responsibility for a department are, having fire department numbers and contacts in place, etc.
“And then they would have to set a date and time and there would have to be a contract signed,” he says.
OTHER WAYS TO COMMUNICATE
In addition to 911 and dispatch, the fire chief says TMR – trunk mobile radio – allows departments to communicate with each other, even if they are not served by the same dispatch system.
“We can talk to pretty well anyone in the province that we need to,” he says.
“If I was in command at any scene and I needed another fire department I would get on the radio and say I need another department and whoever is dispatching for me gets ahold of that department and sends them,” he says. “When the trucks roll out of that department, they just switch to the channel we’re on and talk to us directly.”
Chief Verrall says the notifications he had received from the departments who have indicated they are leaving the Yarmouth dispatch service did not specify the reasons why they are leaving. At the committee of the whole meeting, councillors did not ask if reasons had been supplied.
Chief Verrall encourages people to visit the province’s EMO website for information on emergencies and public safety.
Meanwhile, the town of Yarmouth says it is still in contract negotiations concerning local fire services. The town refers to negotiations as “slowed, but ongoing” saying the next session is scheduled for Nov. 6.