Move toward amalgamation creating anxiety: fire chiefs

The planned consolidation of ambulance dispatch services in the province could have collateral impacts on all emergency services, says the president of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association.

The planned consolidation of ambulance dispatch services in the province could have collateral impacts on all emergency services, says the president of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association.

Gathering in Red Deer for their annual conference, approximately 200 fire chiefs from across Alberta heard Tuesday that the government is seeking their input on how the centralizing of ambulance dispatch into three centres will impact their work. Consultations with municipalities and emergency personnel are ongoing, said Ivan Moore, assistant deputy minister in the public safety division of Municipal Affairs, with concerns expressed to go into a report to be presented to the Municipal Affairs minister in September.

Speaking to the Advocate, AFCA president Brian Cornforth said fire departments across the province are concerned that a move is being made away from a system he says is working reasonably well.

“Dispatch amalgamation has caused some anxiety because of the fact that today we’re very fluidly integrated in the way we do the transmission of data between one dispatch centre . . . that might dispatch police, fire and EMS simultaneously,” he said.

The province announced earlier this year that it would be moving to a system where all ambulance dispatches will be made from centres in Edmonton, Calgary and Peace River by the end of the year. Currently there are 14 dispatch systems in the province.

Right now, all emergency personnel are often in the same centre, working on the same software and database, said Cornforth. “In the new world,” he said, ambulance dispatchers will be on their own database, and the possibility for errors in forwarding vital information to fire departments will exist.

“If you miss an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ on a street, or a ‘north’ or a ‘south,’ or even one number on a rural address — or a city address for that matter — you could be sending resources all over the community or the region.”

The move is effectively a step backwards, he said, and he expects some fire dispatch centres will have to close once the ambulance dispatchers move out. Cornforth said there needs to be significant work done between the Health and Municipal Affairs ministries to ensure the change is handled properly.

“The train has left the station, we understand that. But it doesn’t mean the train has to get there breaking the sound barrier.”

Associate Municipal Affairs Minister Greg Weadick was initially scheduled to host a town hall meeting discussing the changes in Red Deer Tuesday, but scheduling conflicts and low pre-registration for the event led to it being postponed to early July.

Moore said the summer will be spent consulting with affected municipalities and emergency services, with the goal to produce “regional collaboration between municipalities and have them identify what they need to make this work.”

The province’s fire commissioner, Trent West, said the changes will produce a “dynamic response model” that will result in improvements. He said while there will be impacts on rural municipalities and fire services, the service standard for Albertans will not be adversely affected by the dispatch consolidation.

“I would suspect . . . the people won’t even notice the difference. It’ll be behind-the-scenes cost efficiencies and the ability to talk to one another as allied first response services coming together,” said West.

The AFCA conference wraps up today at the Sheraton Hotel.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read