The new $13 million South Island 911/Police Dispatch Centre held a grand opening in Saanich on Wednesday.
The earthquake proof CRD building has a generator and is designed to act as a post-disaster centre.
All 911 calls are directed there for Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria police departments and for 11 RCMP detachments in the central and southern Vancouver Island region. Each transitioned to the centre on a staggered schedule since Jan. 1 with Victoria Police phasing in on Jan. 22, Saanich and Oak Bay on Jan. 29, and other agencies, such as the South Island RCMP and Central Saanich on Feb. 5.
The CRD purpose-built the 1,200-square-metre building while private contractor EComm – a cost recovery corporation – operates call taking and dispatch services. There are currently 70 people in the building, most of them call takers or dispatchers, and most of them moved over from dispatch at previous police departments.
“It was a steady transition, a lot of detailed planning went into the project leading up to [each launch],” said Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm spokesperson.
Any calls for fire or ambulance are rerouted, though the building has room for expansion and could host fire dispatch.
From its opening in January to the end of February, the centre received more than 9,600 911 calls. E-Comm is required to answer 95 per cent of its 911 calls in five seconds or less though the actual average 911 call-answer time is one second.
The centre also handles non-emergency calls with a target to answer 80 per cent of calls in three minutes or less (South Island E-Comm answered 13,803 non-emergency calls from Jan. 22 to March 1) and averaged one minute, 21 seconds.
So far 84 per cent of all non-emergency calls have been answered in three minutes or less and 90 per cent of all non-emergency calls answered in five minutes or less.
If needed, the South Island Centre can send all calls to Vancouver where it has another 540 employees at its E-Comm site.
“Consolidating dispatch services and joining forces to operate out of a shared, state-of-the-art facility will improve coordination between agencies so they can better respond to large emergencies that cross municipal boundaries, improve service to the public and increase officer safety,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, who visited on Wednesday.
Dealing with calls that cross municipal borders and managing those incidents through three call centres was inefficient, said Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.
“Having a regional emergency communications and dispatch centre that provides us with shared resources for overall public safety is such a positive step.”
To see three call centres blended together creates outstanding efficiencies, said Chief Superintendent Sean Sullivan, Island District RCMP Commander.
“It’s going to definitely improve the service to Vancouver Island residents.”
The 11 Central/Southern Vancouver Island RCMP detachments are the Integrated Roadside Safety Unit, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, North Cowichan/Duncan, Outer Gulf Islands (includes Pender, Galiano and Mayne), Salt Spring Island, Shawnigan Lake, Sidney/North Saanich, Sooke, South Island Traffic Services, West Shore (includes City of Langford, City of Colwood, Town of View Royal, District of Metchosin, District of Highlands, Songhees First Nation and Esquimalt First Nation).