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Residents safer, one year into joint fire dispatch

Posted on Friday March 31, 2017

Cobourg, ON – March 31, 2017 – On the first anniversary of moving to joint fire dispatch in Northumberland, Brighton Fire Chief Lloyd Hutchinson shares a vivid illustration of the dramatic improvements this arrangement has delivered to his community.

“One year ago, the first thing we did when a call came in was to pull out our binder of hard copy maps, locate the property in question and plan the most direct route there. Today, we get right into the truck, and the dispatch system uses GPS technology with the most up-to-date GIS data to get us to that call.”

Across Northumberland, local fire chiefs are confirming that the value of this transition has been undeniable: residents in all seven municipalities are safer. Substantially so.

“Timing is everything in an emergency,” states Northumberland County Fire Chiefs Association Chair and Cobourg Fire Chief Mike Vilneff. “The average time to dispatch a truck to a call was previously around the one-minute mark. That is now down to around 20-seconds, across the board. Trucks are leaving the station more quickly, and arriving at the scene in less time. Municipal councils have made an investment in public safety and it is paying off in dividends.”

With a continuing focus on shared services, local municipalities—under whose jurisdiction fire service falls—approached the County in 2015 about coordinating a single contract for dispatch across all fire services in Northumberland. At that time, there were four separate dispatchers amongst the seven municipalities. This siloed approach to operations frequently resulted in on-scene coordination challenges and inefficiencies, particularly when mutual aid was activated between multiple services.

“Previously, the Incident Commander was on-scene making calls to different centres to organize additional support as required, which was taking valuable time away from other response activities,” indicates County Mutual Aid Coordinator and Trent Hills Fire Chief Tim Blake. “Dispatch now organizes automatic aid—activating the closest fire station to a call in addition to the lead municipal service (if these are different). They also continue to function, throughout the call, as a central contact point through which additional support can be coordinated from across all seven services, streamlining this process.”

Under the new five-year contract, dispatch for the entire county is now handled by Peterborough Fire Services (PFS) Communications Centre, with costs assigned to each municipality based on their proportion of the County levy. This arrangement positions all local fire services for enhanced collaboration over the long term, based on strong, interoperable communications systems.

“This initiative is an excellent example of the power of shared services to deliver significant benefit to our community,” states County Warden Mark Walas. “County Council applauds the Northumberland Fire Chiefs for bringing this possibility to the attention of their municipalities, and we congratulate all parties involved in this collaboration for implementing a solution that has resulted in such remarkable outcomes for the delivery of efficient, effective fire services in Northumberland.”

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