Just weeks after regional district directors received a consultant’s report outlining the current state of the regional district’s 911 communications network, as well as proposals for future updates, some particularly nasty winter weather in the Okanagan knocked out a key communications tower in the regional district network.
It’s just possible that mother nature did the regional district a favour. The tower failure highlighted a number of problems that the RDOS needs to address with respect to such things as provisioni for an adequate warning system when remote equipment fails, and the potential vulnerbility of such tower sites during extreme weather events.
Discussions ensuing from the Christmas week breakdown suggest that there may also be alternatives to relying completely on a network of tower sites to relay emergency signals from Kelowna throughout the RDOS.
One suggestion is, for instance, that rather than link Kelowna to Penticton via radio, a highly dedicated phone line might be more suitable – less susceptible to failure and cheaper, as well as being more in line with what other communications providers are doing.
The recent communications breakdown, while causing inconvenience to nine regional fire departments, did not compromise public safety. But it appears that the incident did provide a number of lessons for the regional district as they move ahead with a modernization of emergency communications in the region – some of which, hopefully can be incorporated into plans laid out already in the consultants’ report.