FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Firefighters in northeastern British Columbia say residents need to be very clear about the location of any emergency now that fire dispatch services are being handled on Vancouver Island, nearly 800 kilometres away.
Beginning Nov. 23, dispatch for the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek fire departments is being managed by North Island 911 in Campbell River.
The switch on Thursday prompted Fort St. John fire Chief Fred Burrows to advise residents to provide specific details, such as an exact address when speaking to the 911 operator.
Dispatchers in Fort St. John or Dawson Creek have served fire departments in the Peace River Regional District for more than 30 years but the district voted in early 2017 to accept a proposal for service from North Island 911 Corp.
All 911 calls from the district are now channelled directly to the E-Comm emergency dispatch centre in Vancouver, with fire calls then routed to North Island 911.
The Fort St. John Professional Firefighters Association has released a statement saying it is "strongly against" the change but will work with dispatchers in Campbell River to ensure the transition is handled in the best interests of the community.
Burrows says area residents must understand they are not speaking to someone with local knowledge when they place an emergency call.
"In the past, the calls were managed by our staff so if a caller said they were located 10 minutes past the red barn on ABC Road, we knew where to go.".
"It is very important that our citizens know exactly how to report their emergency from now on," the chief says.
When North Island 911 announced in May that it had won the Peace River Regional District fire dispatch contract, it said it was working with fire departments in the region to ensure a smooth transition and was updating its mapping and radio network systems. (MooseFM)