As a volunteer firefighter, I can attest to how crucial it is to have a spot-on dispatch system.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that right now. Although we used to under the previous system with dispatcher Allan Stark and his crew in Penticton.
You may recall that the regional district chose Kelowna as the new dispatch contractor basically because its bid was a million dollars cheaper than Penticton’s.
At the time, it sounded great to save that much money and be assured that dispatch services would be upgraded and enhanced. But the system wasn’t broken to begin with; it was very reliable and consistent, with dispatchers like Dawn Young who knew our communities like their back pockets. They knew Oliver, they knew its streets and back alleys, and always pointed local firefighters in the right direction . . . every time.
The dispatchers in Kelowna are competent and dedicated to their craft, but they’re working with an internet-based system that tends to be inconsistent (glitches in communication). We can’t afford glitches when it’s somebody’s life or property on the line.
Now the regional district is spending $1.6 million to upgrade the emergency call infrastructure, with a new communication tower on Okanagan Mountain. I guess we didn’t save a million dollars by switching contracts.
It remains to be seen if this new upgrade will address some of the communication problems that fire departments have been experiencing.
There was nothing wrong with the old radio-based system; it had a better back-up service than Kelowna’s. Even the dispatchers made it a point to visit each fire hall in the district to develop a rapport with members and talk about concerns.
New isn’t always better, and sometimes technology can be more of a headache than a cure.
Editor, Oliver Chronicle