Calling 911 to report a fire is something most of us take for granted, but it’s a process Okanagan Indian Band residents are just being introduced to.
While a firm date has not been determined yet, some time this fall, anyone on the reserve along Westside Road will be able to call 911 about a fire through a contract with the City of Vernon’s dispatch centre.
“Public safety is a huge concern,” said Byron Louis, band chief, after signing an agreement with Vernon Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe Tuesday.
Presently, fires on band land are handled by an answering service established by the Okanagan Indian Band Fire Department.
“The past system was so antiquated with 1980s equipment,” said Mike Doherty, with the department.
“Answering personnel are not trained to be or act as an emergency service centre. With no assistance during or afterwards, we lost five to 15 minutes from the actual caller.”
The band’s department has been seeking access to 911 for 13 years.
“It will result in a faster response time and more detailed information for our members,” said Doherty.
Jack Blair, a Vernon Fire Department deputy chief, is confident the city’s dispatch centre can benefit the band’s department.
“They can get advice and prompt answers when needed,” he said.
“We have the expertise of our dispatcher and on-duty local firefighters.”
The agreement is for five years and the band will pay $8,000 for the first year.
“It generates some funds for the city,” said Blair.
Louis hopes the 911 service is the first step towards all jurisdictions working on a regional emergency plan.
“There needs to be more co-ordinated effort,” he said.