Fort St. James and the rest of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) will finally be able to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency when the service goes live on October 25.
The service is being launched after eight years of work by the regional district’s 9-1-1 committee to improve emergency response in the region.
Once it is activated, anyone within the regional district who calls 9-1-1 will be put through to the RCMP dispatch centre in Prince George. An operator who answers the call will ask what service the caller requires – police, fire or ambulance – and then the call will be transferred to the appropriate detachment.
Currently there are 25 different emergency telephone lines throughout the regional district for police, fire and ambulance services.
“So in one town you called a certain number for police and fire and in the next town it could be two completely different numbers … it makes things very difficult,” said Stoney Stoltenberg, Chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako 9-1-1 Committee.
“Also if you are a tourist travelling through and there happens to be an emergency, well, everywhere in North America is 9-1-1 except for our regional district,” he added.
The 9-1-1 committee is currently going through the final testing stages to make sure that all the communication lines are properly working. They are also holding a number of information meetings over the next two weeks throughout the regional district including public meetings and at all the schools to make sure that everyone is aware of the service activation.
“The reason for going to the schools is that if we can teach the kids about 9-1-1, they will teach their parents,” said Stoltenberg.
As well as improving emergency response from all detachments, Stoltenberg says the new service will prevent emergency lines being called by accident.
“What happens is that when you just have a standard telephone number for an emergency service … it gets called by accident quite often.
“I used to be the fire chief in Telkwa a number of years ago and what used to happen is … somebody would miss-dial a number they were calling and dialed 846-5555 – it rang at the fire hall – and because of our telephone exchange interconnect it rang at people’s houses … so if it’s two o’clock in the morning and somebody called the wrong number, you have basically woken up the entire fire department for no reason,” said Stoltenberg.
“Now if the emergency phone rings – it will be the fire control centre in Prince George and they have already determined that it’s a fire or an emergency of some sort,” he added.
On October 25 a ceremony will be held in Burns Lake to mark the activation of the service and the de-activation of old emergency numbers.
“Of all the things that we supply for our residents, as far as I’m concerned, emergency response is the very most improtant – being able to protect lives and property – so I’m very excited about it, said Stoltenberg.
The committee would like to warn the public not to test the service once it becomes active to check if it is working.
“Trust me it is going to work so don’t test it – don’t just call it to see if it works because if you dial 9-1-1 and the operator picks up the phone and you hang up – somebody is going to come to your house to find out why the phone rang … the operator doesn’t know why the line went dead – so it could be an emergency, “ he said.
A public meeting will be held in Fraser Lake at the arena on September 21, in Vanderhoof at the Friendship Centre on September 27, in Fort Fraser at the Community Hall on September 28 and at Fort St. James Secondary School on September 29. All meetings are at 7 p.m. For a full schedule of the information meetings, go to the RDBN website.