Sooke to benefit from improved emergency telecommunications system

Work is underway implementing new HRO technology upgrade that will improve coverage for CREST

  • Thu Jul 7th, 2016 10:00am
  • News

A new HRO is coming to local emergency services.

Work is underway implementing new HRO (pronounced hero) technology upgrade that will improve coverage for the CRD’s Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications.

The current system is coming of age and the new HRO system will provide enhanced reliability and coverage, said Gordie Logan, CREST board chair.

“Much like cellphones, the equipment ages very quickly,” he said. “HRO upgrades the new P25 platform and will also provide better in-building coverage. It will also allow the system to expand into areas that had spotty coverage due to topography issues.”

The P25 platform will see public safety agencies throughout the region switch to a digital platform in three stages. Beginning in early 2017, the core area of Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and Esquimalt will begin using the system. They will be followed in the fall of 2017 by West Shore communities and Metchosin. Sooke, the Gulf Islands and the Pacific Rim go online by mid 2018.

CREST general manager Gord Horth said comments from police, fire and ambulance services on the upgrades has been “very positive so far.”

“It’s a big step forward in terms of using proven technology to enhance public safety.”

The $25-million price tag includes the cost of replacing CREST’s existing radios, which was necessary given most are five to 10 years old.

Sooke Fire Chief Steve Sorensen expects this region to benefit from new system.

“Generally, we’re happy with the system. We’ll have to see what these upgrades do,” Sorensen said.

Unlike the Victoria core area, Sooke has had few problems with the CREST system, with Sorensen calling it “quite an improvement” over the old system.

Transmission “dead zones” persist though in the 17 Mile House Pub and Connie Road areas and in some canyons in Sooke Potholes Regional Park. Larger problems exist for Sooke when attending mutual aid fire calls in Otter Point, Metchosin and near the East Sooke border.

Sorensen expects those will be rectified with the new system.

CREST is adding 18 new transmission sites to its network, which should lower the incidents of dropped calls, Horth said.

Another benefit of HRO is that it will run in partnership with Emergency Communications for British Columbia, (E-Comm), the largest multi-jurisdictional emergency service radio system in the province.

Because E-Comm is in the process of replacing its radios as well, the CRD was able to save $2 million by bulk buying the new radios from Motorola Services Canada together, Logan said. A further advantage is that if either the CREST or the E-Comm system goes down, the other system can handle the service, he added.