This week the provincial Government announced that they’d completed a feasibility study on the possibility of implementing 911 emergency services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Turns out ... it’s possible.
Now, if you knew what 911 was before Government made this announcement, then don’t be shocked, and think yourself a genius, because you’re not alone. In fact, even the smallest of toddlers in Primary school are taught what 911 is – because the textbooks and curriculum that’s presented to them aren’t always Rural Newfoundland specific, and come from areas where 911 is a common thing. Like St. John’s.
But for most the other half of Newfoundland and Labrador, who live in more rural areas, the luxury of fast dialing a number to have an emergency vehicle show up at your door is a foreign concept.
Some towns have a pager system – where there’s a number, albeit, not 911, but a number none-the-less – and it alerts the emergency personnel of the impending danger, and gives them request to react.
Other towns, though, have pretty much one option:
Phone someone you know on the volunteer fire department, tell them your chimney is all-fire, and have his wife phone the rest of the guys while he heads down to the fire hall to get the truck.
I’m not sure how much more sophisticated that’s going to get when this 911 thing comes into play – after all, if you live in a town with a volunteer fire department, and your house is on fire, if you call 911, where does the call go?
For this area, likely Corner Brook – where there’s already a 911 call centre.
OK, so call goes to Corner Brook – who do they call? Well, probably the local RCMP, since they’re the only ‘official’ means of contact for the area.
So then, who does the RCMP call? Well, they’ll probably get on the horn to the local Volunteer Fire Department – which means they’re phoning buddy, and asking his wife to call the rest of the guys, while he goes and gets the truck.
How that’s faster than you calling buddy in the first place is beyond me. Meanwhile … your house just burned down, because the RCMP only has one number for point of contact, and he isn’t home. Oops.
This is where the idea of regionalization comes into play. Sorry for swearing, but hear me out for a second.
One small little town can’t afford to have a pager system, and people on call, or to compensate folks for going out and fighting fires. It just can’t happen.
However, if a few towns close to each other pulled some resources together then maybe they could come close to something similar.
Now, then, picture this. That’s number I just talked about? The pager? Lets say there’s a schedule and each fire fighter wears that for a certain day of the month. That pager goes off when the 911 service calls and says there’s a fire – meaning that person can then mobilize the troops to go combat it.
Without something like that, though, the RCMP are looking down through a list of every firefighter in every town they cover (which is a lot of most of them) trying to find someone willing to answer the phone, and go help skipper whose house is on fire.
To get a system like I just mentioned, though, costs money – which most fire departments don’t have. However, if a few went in on it together, and formed a Regional Fire Department, the odds of getting it to work are more likely. Plus, it means more people to go on call, which means less often for the wonderful volunteers to be on the clock.
Yes, it could work – yes it means having to work together, but yes, it’s for the best of everyone involved.
The only thing, though, is for these pagers to work … one requires cell phone service – and that’s a whole different beast altogether.
– Rudy Norman