Saanich site would answer call for centralized 911 dispatch

Saanich Fire will likely take over space vacated by police

This empty lot on Commerce Circle would be a proposed $16 million facility for 911 regional dispatch including the Saanich Police.

This empty lot on Commerce Circle would be a proposed $16 million facility for 911 regional dispatch including the Saanich Police.

A proposed new $16 million Emergency Response Dispatch Centre would centralize the 911 police dispatches and call centres in the Glanford neighbourhood of Saanich.

The Capital Regional District board voted to borrow the $16 million.

The new facility would be built at 4219 Commerce Circle. There is a conditional offer in place to purchase the property for $1.35 million, pending subject removals by December.

Not everything is in place, yet, but it’s looking positive, said Saanich Police Chief Bob Downie.

Despite recent moves to relieve the cramped quarters of the Saanich Police station on Vernon Avenue, including opening a new space at 57 Cadillac Ave., Downie said the 911 dispatch has enough room.

“This is a police-led initiative,” Downie said. “It’s about creating better conditions to better secure providers. Our [dispatch] is not squeezed for space, but we need better conditions to deal with post-disaster standards.”

To create the new call centre a South Island Police Dispatch Steering Committee was created. Its role is to establish the framework necessary for a new, unified 911 Call Answer and Police Dispatch Centre, as existing facilities are not adequate.

In theory, the Commercial Circle site would host 911 Primary Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) for the region.

Police dispatch generally handle the initial 911 calls as about 75 per cent end up being for police, the rest divided between fire and ambulance.

Saanich Police also provides dispatch service for Oak Bay police.

Once Saanich Police moves its dispatch out, it’s likely the Saanich Fire Department’s dispatch, which could use the extra space, might move into the vacant police dispatch.

In 2012, View Royal and Colwood signed a five-year contract to have both fire departments serviced by Saanich Fire Department dispatch.

While there is some speculation that regional fire department dispatches could eventually move into Commerce Circle as well, Downie said having separate dispatches is also good.

“Having some redundancy is a good thing when it comes to dispatch, in case of certain situations [such as disasters],” he said.

The new site at 57 Cadillac Ave. has moved part of Saanich Police’s detectives division, community engagement, school liaisons and youth section.