August 27, 2013 - 9:11 AM
VERNON - Residents and visitors of the Okanagan Indian Band reserve will soon be able to report emergencies through 911.
An agreement has been reached between the City of Vernon and the Okanagan Indian Band to share fire emergency dispatch services.
With the signing of the agreement, all emergencies requiring the Okanagan Indian Band Fire Department will be dispatched from the Vernon Fire Rescue dispatch centre downtown.
The new system, which is expected to go into effect this fall, means that residents and visitors will no longer have to call 545-4111 to report an emergency.
"They would call that answering service, and the crews would get paged out. Now they don't have that extra step," Vernon fire chief Keith Green said. "The number was on a sign coming into the reserve, but for visitors, the natural instinct would be to call 911."
Now, callers will be able to access police, ambulance and fire services all at one universal number.
"We at the Okanagan Indian Band are very pleased with this new agreement with the City of Vernon and the Vernon Fire Rescue Services and the enhanced safety and protection that will come from it for our Band Members and community residents,” band chief Byron Louis said.
The Vernon dispatch centre uses modern software, radio communications and voice recording software to provide state-of-the-art fire dispatch services. When the 911 calls are transferred, professional fire dispatchers will process and initiate the response and provide on-going dispatch support for the duration of the emergency.
"We’re confident there will be improved safety for responders and those in need during fire emergencies," Green said. "There will be continual communication throughout the emergency, so if they have to request additional services or the ambulance, that will be more streamlined."
Upgrades and testing of equipment will need to happen before the Okanagan Indian Band transitions to the new system.
"Our fire dispatch centre was designed to provide modern service within the city and to clients in the area," Vernon Coun. Mary-Jo O'Keefe said. "This agreement reflects the city’s interest to support common regional communications during emergencies.”
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This story was edited at 9:30 a.m. to add additional information from Keith Green.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013