Public safety is on the line
As a former dispatcher with the Regional Dispatch Centre in Penticton, I read your articles with great interest. I also found it interesting that another article appeared on Page 9 reporting that the regional district was waiting for a second part to their study to be prepared by Planetworks regarding the infrastructure that delivers the service. They were now going to look into that and pass that cost along to the fire departments and ultimately, the taxpayer. Is that a surprise? No. Sign me up for my new and improved delivery service, and then surprise — you have to pay for all the upgrades to get it to your department. And will the taxpayer ever know the real costs? No, that will be buried in the books, especially those services that the city has contracted out that we did for free.
Would you not make sure that you had your infrastructure in place before you allowed your delivery system to be compromised? And that it actually worked? If you were going to have a new fandangle system delivered to your house, would you not have to have the proper up-to-date lines installed first? Was this not putting the cart before the horse?
I hate to say I told you so (actually I’ve been waiting to say that), but you have now put firefighters and the general public in harm’s way. This is a huge safety issue. And something this important should be working properly — right out of the gate. Yes, you can expect some small glitches, but this was taken over on Dec. 7 and these problems should have been addressed in the first week.
Yes, the dispatchers in Penticton worked for years with old and sometimes no technology. That was through no fault of our own. The politicians didn’t want to spend the money. When you are behind the scenes, not right in their faces, it’s easy to sweep it aside.
But let me tell you, it’s better to have dispatchers working for you that know where you live and which department responds; that use their brains and use technology as a backup tool and not have a computer telling you where to go. This results in time delays in response, and if you have a scanner, you will have heard this over and over in the past five weeks. Departments in the south being dispatched to calls north of Kelowna with trucks assigned to the call from a different department. They keep saying that they have the technology to get the departments to the call in the form of a ‘rip and run’, but that piece of paper has to have the correct information first. Unreadable communications with departments relying on a rip and run that may or may not have correct information — totally unacceptable.
Do you think this service moved to Kelowna because it was a great deal? No. It moved as a result of contract negotiations between the city and the local IAFF. Plus the fact that the city was not willing to pay their fair share of the cost. Those doing the job in Kelowna are paid the same salary as those that did the job in Penticton. The city has played chicken with five local dispatch positions and, ultimately, your safety. And you are now getting what you paid for. I told you so.