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New 9-1-1 service model for the Valley coming soon

A primary 9-1-1 call answering service for the Comox Valley and beyond will save around $1.7 million without compromising service, explained the president of the North Island 911 Corporation Wednesday.

Jon Ambler said the corporation's board of directors voted to contract with E-Comm based in Vancouver for 9-1-1 call answering services, which is strictly the PSAP — the public safety answering point — when an individual calls the emergency line.

"When someone calls 9-1-1 they ask what the nature of the emergency is —fire, police or ambulance — and they immediately transfer the call to a dispatcher," he explained.

The call will then be transferred either to the Courtenay Operation Communications Centre (OCC) for police, North Island 911's fire dispatch centre in Campbell River, or Victoria for ambulance, which will all remain the same.

Currently, the initial answering point for PSAP for the North Island 911 Corporation is the RCMP OCC in Courtenay. The corporation has an agreement with the RCMP OCC to perform the function, but following an analysis by the consulting firm Pomax, it found the service was not part of the force's core business and the price would be increasing.

"The physical location (of PSAP) doesn't add value to the location of the services," explained Ambler. "Telephone calls move at the speed of light. You can be on Mars and still answer 9-1-1 calls … where you're sitting doesn't matter."

"E-Comm does calls for millions of people … they have a contract with us to answer 95 per cent of calls in five seconds or less."

Ambler added there is significant value with keeping local centres to handle the call following the transfer, and said E-Comm is "probably one of the best call centres in North America."

He said the company is a not-for-profit, and said the decision was based upon two priorities: ensuring service would not be reduced or inadequate and that service has to be affordable.

The cost of the new model for PSAP will be $2,003,510 over five years, and is scheduled to take effect this fall.

Despite the change, Lois Karr, manager for the Operation Communications Centre division, confirmed there will be no loss of jobs.

"They will be absorbed," she noted and added all employees of the OCC are civilian members of the RCMP and are trained in both 9-1-1 and police dispatch.

There are four PSAP positions, funded by the North Island 911 Corporation, with a full time staff of 30 at the OCC, supplemented by approximately 12 casuals which cover holidays and busy periods.

Established in 1995, The North Island 911 Corporation covers the largest geographical 9-1-1 area in Canada, covering regional districts of Comox Valley, Strathcona, Mt.Waddington and Alberni-Clayoquot, Powell River and a portion of the Nanaimo Regional District.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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