Communication is the story

Regional district 911 dispatch communications issues brought to press attention through failure to communicate

Sometimes news stories are brought to the public’s attention simply due to the way the story is disseminated.

Take, for example, last week’s widely reported story on problems with 911 dispatch’s radio contact with regional district fire departments.

An RDOS press release that was distributed before Christmas called the transition of the Penticton 911 service to Kelowna “seamless,” at a very early point in the transitional process.

Several weeks went by, with several local departments apparently having communication difficulties with Kelowna dispatch, with those departments  apparently indicating to the regional district that they were having issues. However, there never seemed to be a corresponding change in the way the regional district publicly dealt with the issue. They continued to insist, when pressed, that they had not heard of any issues, and apparently did not communicate to any of the regional chiefs that they were working on a solution.

Could the communications issue  have been life threatening? It’s hard to say –  but the problems were definitely serious enough that the public – and especially the regional chiefs  – had a right to be kept informed. The irony of the situation is that the whole story would have been a non event had the official reaction to the radio communications issue been handled with the public’s “right to know” in mind, by admitting that issues were cropping up, informing the regional district chiefs that what they were experiencing in each department was not isolated, and by informing both the chiefs and the public that a solution was being sought.

Simple, honest  and open – and there wouldn’t have been anything to write about.