Problems persist with dispatch

A proper radio link should have been built from Kelowna to Penticton to handle emergency dispatch operations

I wish to draw your attention to a story that was reported in the Aug. 8 edition of the Western News, about fire dispatch and the Planetworks 2010 study. You stated that Planetworks had recommended that the RDOS pull out of Penticton fire dispatch. I do not believe that is correct.

In fact, I think if you read the report, you will see that Planetworks suggested going to RFI (request for information), not pulling out or going to RFP (request for proposal). The two are entirely different options. It was the regional district that opted to go with an RFP.

It is disappointing that the RDOS didn’t require and insist that whichever dispatch centre took over operations, that all services that were done in past would at least be maintained. This has not been the case. Some services were watered down while some were dropped entirely.

For the money that Kelowna bid, there was no way that they could’ve taken on all the services. The technology that was touted as being state of the art has only added another point of failure — the Internet link that gets the signal from Kelowna to Penticton and beyond. This link never existed before (it wasn’t necessary) and has failed several times in the past eight months that I am aware of.

A proper radio link should have been built from Kelowna to Penticton, though it would not come without cost, but at least it would be reliable. Penticton dispatch had several radio backup systems in place; Kelowna has none for this area. Their only backup relies on cellphones, which are the first lines of communication to become overloaded and fail during times of large-scale emergencies.

I do not blame Kelowna; they are only doing what they were asked to, with the funds and tools given them. That Internet link ties into the same 20-year-old radio system that has been in place all along. Penticton couldn’t have done any better, had they taken on another entire regional district area, either, in my opinion.

The two areas combined are huge, and putting all your eggs in one basket (one dispatch centre in this case) was not the way to go in my opinion. I am also not impressed with the computerized mapping system that Kelowna uses. Cross-street references given can be inaccurate — this is where local knowledge of not just streets but also landmarks is essential.

One often-heard reference puts Penticton Regional Hospital at 550 Carmi Ave. (correct), at the cross streets of Balfour Street (correct) and Powell Beach Road (wrong)! Again, this is not Kelowna’s fault; it’s the system. An Iphone with GPS will give the same erroneous co-ordinates. I see that they are going ahead with another radio study (which I feel is long overdue) but the RDOS has already stated that “there is no money.” I’m fairly certain that the study will suggest significant upgrades.

Sometimes you’re better off to stick with the tried, proven and tested. Two words that we hear so often these days are “low bid,” and it is so often proof positive that you really do get what you pay for.

Allan C.L. Stark, retired dispatcher