LOSS OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE NOT WORTH THE POSSIBLE COST SAVINGS: ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
VERNON - The idea of outsourcing fire dispatch services is drawing strong criticism from the Vernon Professional Firefighters Association.
The City of Vernon announced today in a press release it is issuing a request for proposals for alternative dispatch services to “determine if an alternative delivery model could reduce costs and provide a more robust service.” The city points out that communities such as Cranbrook, Fort St. John, Penticton and Salmon Arm have all contracted out dispatch services.
But Brent Bond, the president of the Vernon Professional Firefighters Association, says not all of those communities are pleased with the change.
“Most of those have been very unhappy with the service once they changed it, and have not realized the cost savings they thought they were going to,” Bond says.
According to the city, Vernon Fire Dispatch uses a single dispatch station, normally operated by one staff member.
Bond says four local dispatcher positions could potentially be on the line if the service is outsourced. He says the biggest loss if the service is contracted out to a larger dispatch centre is local knowledge.
“If you’re being dispatched from an area by a dispatcher who has no idea what this area is like, it’s considerably more difficult,” he says.
The city anticipates potential savings of $250,000 a year if the service is outsourced (the total cost of dispatch services in Vernon is currently $549,355 annually).
Even if savings could be realized, Bond says they are not worth it.
“No, because it’s a lower level of service. That’s how they are achieving the cost savings,” he says.
The City says the current system could be at risk of system failures, and delayed call processing or dispatching in large scale and large call volume events.
“Larger centres typically have two or more staff assigned on a 24/7 basis. Dispatch facilities are secure and there are normally back-up provisions in the event of a system or facility failure,” the City states in the release.
Interim Vernon Fire Chief David Lind says no decision has been made, they are simply getting more information.
“Our dispatchers are providing excellent support to our department and the community,” Lind says in the release. “This decision to investigate contracted services in no way reflects on their skill or the work they do.”
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