911 Corporation hangs up on Mounties

The move will save more than $1 million over the next few years

The RCMP will no longer handle calls made to 911 as the North Island 911 Corporation has opted to go with a new service provider.

The move will save more than $1 million over the next few years.

North Island 911 chose to not renew its contract with the RCMP for call answering services after the Mounties increased their costs by more than $250,000 per year.

Coun. Larry Samson announced at the Strathcona Regional District table Thursday that 911 Corporation has hired E-Comm to handle emergency calls in order to save on costs.

“We feel that it is a good contract,” Samson said. “It gives us state-of-the-art technology and at the same time saves North Island 911 Corporation $1.7 million over five years.”

While a new provider will answer 911 calls and then direct them to either fire, police, or ambulance, emergency calls for fire-related emergencies will still be dispatched by the Campbell River Fire Department which works as the fire dispatcher for 49 different fire departments across the Island in six regional districts.

North Island 911 Corporation followed advice from consulting firm Pomax in selecting a new dispatch model after the RCMP advised that emergency call services are not a part of the force’s core service and as a result, the price would be going up.

Jon Ambler, president of North Island 911, said the board did not take the decision lightly and ultimately decided it was incumbent upon the organization to take the opportunity to save taxpayers money without compromising service.

“This is probably the most profound decision this board will ever make,” Ambler said in a news release. “This is an operational business and in some cases the operations involve life or death. E-Comm has proven strength in primary call answering service for 911, and Campbell River fire department has proven strength in fire dispatch. Both organizations are operationally ready, right now, to provide these vital services for our citizens and visitors.”

The cost of the new 911 answering service will be $2 million over five years.  Samson said E-Comm is expected to take over on October 21, but that date is dependent on Telus.

“If Telus can’t provide by that time, it will be early in the new year,” Samson said.

The agreement with E-Comm is good for five years and will cover service in the Comox Valley, Strathcona (Campbell River area), Mt. Waddington (North Island), and Alberni-Clayoquot regional districts, as well as a portion of the Nanaimo Regional District and the Powell River Regional District.

E-Comm currently provides 911 service to the Metro Vancouver region, Sunshine Coast Regional District, Whistler, Squamish, and the south portion of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

E-Comm’s standard is to answer at least 95 per cent of calls within five seconds of the call being received at the call answer centre.