Oak Bay mayor stokes regional fire dispatch discussion

Jensen plans to seek extensions for contracts as CRD pursues potential for regional solution

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen plans to add a little fire to the CRD board meeting on Wednesday.

The CRD Planning and Protective Services Committee agreed to seek more definition and specifics on costing models for a single regional fire dispatch service after seeing a report from staff during its March 28 meeting.

The report came about after a heated debate during the CRD board meeting in December. At that time the board agreed to gather information on establishing a single regional fire dispatch centre a notion put forward by Jensen.

“It met with a little bit of resistance but in the end we got a report,” Jensen said.

“It’s unanimous we should continue to examine the costs of a single call centre in the CRD and for all the right reasons,” Jensen said, adding the concept has support of the regions fire chiefs, and early indications show up to 20 per cent cost savings.

“Most importantly it’s the safety factor. It’s what should be driving us all,” Jensen said.

He points to the closest fire engine response agreement between Oak Bay and Saanich fire departments as a key example. Dispatch automatically sends the closest aid when a call comes in.

“That ensures we get there in the fastest time possible. That should be the goal throughout the CRD. We don’t have that protocol with Victoria for instance,” Jensen said.

“It’s seamless it decreases the response time and therefore it’s a great safety measure. If you have a fractured and multiple dispatches you can’t do that. It’s not possible to dispatch the closest fire engine in the same way. That’s the primary reason we should move a single dispatch system in the CRD.”

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Jensen intends to bring it to the CRD board April 11 seeking similar agreement to further explore a single call centre scenario.

“One barrier right now that we’re going to have to face is that five communities, their contracts are about to expire with Saanich,” Jensen said.

Earlier this month, Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal, North Saanich and Sidney announced plans to contract fire dispatch services from Surrey rather than Saanich as per their current agreement. The five communities started to search for alternatives in late 2017 and early 2018, after Saanich announced it would double its charge in the face of financial pressures. The District of Saanich says it can no longer afford to subsidize service to smaller municipalities.

Oak Bay is also considering options as its contract expires at the end of 2018.

Jensen plans to propose those contracts be extended to allow to find a single CRD dispatch solution.

“I’m confident we will, but we will need some time,” Jensen said. “I’m hoping when communities see the advantages to the single dispatch centre we can get extended contracts to get full analysis of the advantages and costs.”



cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

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