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Gated communities hit and miss with emergency services

PENTICTON - Gated communities, such as Sandbridge, are as easy and as hard to access as other multi-residential areas emergency services have said.
June 15, 2013 - 5:00 AM

GATES CAN ALSO KEEP OUT POLICE, EMERGENCY SERVICES

PENTICTON — Gated communities of the South and Central Okanagan are sought for their sanctity, but as an ongoing murder case being heard in Kelowna proved, those gates can be effective in keeping out those coming to help.

At the murder trial of Keith Wiens,  accused of killing his common law wife Lynn Kalmring Aug. 16, 2011, a police officer described the series of events leading to his arrival at their Sandbridge home behind a tall outer wall and thick iron gate. That night, Wiens called 911 to say he "just shot his wife."

Police raced to the scene... and stopped at the gate. The first officer on scene had to scale the fence to get in. Police and emergency responders in Penticton and Kelowna acknowledge that's an unusual circumstance; usually people who need help are at the gate waiting for help.

But neither Penticton nor Kelowna require gated communities to give emergency services keys or access codes to the walled cities, though officials say in most cases, the information is volunteered.

Penticton RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur remembers the event. He said officers climbing fences doesn't happen often but police will do whatever it takes. If calls are not answered, officers "start pushing buttons" on the outside intercome, he said. If that doesn't work, officers will scale walls and fences. If the need is urgent, RCMP will consider ramming the front gate or fence with their vehicle.

"If we are chasing somebody on foot then it could be a problem getting a vehicle in there," he said if the gate is closed.

Penticton fire chief Wayne Williams said gated communities typically provide the department access and codes for entry. If not, the department asks for them. He also said they have ways but would not elaborate. Typically, he's not had problems getting access to gated communities or similar sites.

The B.C. Ambulance Service relies on those calling them to let paramedics in or the fire department giving them access.

"We've always gotten in. There's always a way," a dispatch officer said. The person declined to give his name.

City spokesperson Simone Blais said Penticton fire and life safety bylaws allow firefighters wide leeway to access fire and people in need of help. 

Blais said there's only one specific mention of gated communities in a bylaw but it covers only their appearance—not mandatorily providing keys or codes to emergency services.

It's a similar situation in Kelowna. While no bylaw mandates sharing access codes, a spokesperson for the Kelowna Fire Department said no gated community or apartment building in the city has refused to provide keys or codes. But Kelowna RCMP spokesperson Const. Kris Clark says it's typically not an issue, but acknowledges it's hit and miss. He said it sometimes depends if police have history in the gated community or apartment building.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @shannonquesnel1

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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