A fiscally responsible decision by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen last year to move emergency fire dispatch services to Kelowna from Penticton has resulted in the Regional District saving enough to cover the cost of replacing a 20-year-old emergency radio system described as “antiquated” and “in need of replacement.”
The Regional District’s 2013 operating budget includes $1.6 million in funding to complete work recommended by a public safety communications consultant last November. The budget has received first reading and is currently undergoing a public consultation process. Final approval by the Regional Board is expected in March.
“What’s important to note is the Regional District would be facing this upgrading cost whether we moved our emergency fire dispatch to Kelowna or not,” explained RDOS Board Chair Dan Ashton. “The Regional District is aware of the deteriorating condition of our emergency radio system and is taking prudent steps to correct the situation.
“That work began with our decision last year to move services to Kelowna from Penticton and saving RDOS ratepayers almost $1.8 million.”
The effectiveness of regional emergency radio services was questioned in the aftermath of a power outage at a commercially owned transmission tower on Mount Kobau where the RDOS is a communications client. Regional fire departments were without their primary method of communication for about ten days as the site’s operator worked to get the tower up and running again.
“At no time were RDOS residents in danger of not having fire coverage,” said Dale Kronebusch, the Regional District’s Emergency Service Supervisor. “We build redundancies into the system to deal with such potentialities and in this case the dispatch center in Kelowna was able to contact fire departments using telephone.”
Funding included in the 2013 operating budget will provide for upgrading of communication equipment at fire departments serving the Regional District and an overhaul of the wireless system connecting the dispatch center to the member fire departments.
For further information, please contact Dale Kronebusch, RDOS Emergency Services Supervisor at (250) 490-4139 or email@example.com.