$13.1M deal to improve police, firefighter radio communication

South Island police and firefighters will experience clearer and more reliable radio communication with an initiative announced Monday.

Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications, or CREST, says it has agreed to a $13.1-million deal with Motorola Solutions Canada for new digital infrastructure to run radio communications.

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The new radio system will supply the 50 emergency-response agencies in the Capital Regional District, including police, fire and ambulance. Audio clarity for individual police officers and firefighters will be improved and coverage of the geographic area will also be enhanced.

The new technology is part of a $24.4-million upgrade in communications infrastructure, such as computers, lines and transmission towers, agreed to in 2014.

CREST is a not-for-profit organization formed in 2001 to take care of all emergency responders in the CRD, police, fire and ambulance. Its radio system now serves 50 agencies.

At the announcement of the new Motorola contract, CREST officials, including general manger Gord Horth, said the organization was able to save about $1.2 million by partnering with E-Comm, the public-safety communications agency serving the Lower Mainland through to the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Valley.

Another benefit of working with E-Comm is that teams with emergency agencies served by the two communications companies can operate in each other’s areas when required.

So responders from the Lower Mainland could step in and help out on southern Vancouver Island in an emergency, and vice versa. “It would be seamless for the folks because the platform is exactly the same,” said Horth.

Also, if a catastrophe such as an earthquake knocks out emergency communications command in one area, the other can serve as a backup, directing police, fire and ambulance workers on their radios.

It’s what Deputy Chief Scott Green of the Saanich Police Department called a built-in “redundancy.”

“We will end up with a much more resilient system overall,” said Green.

CREST is planning to introduce the new communications technology in three phases, to be completed in 2018.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

Note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version misspelled Greg Horth's name.

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