Sidney, B.C.; Slated for occupancy in the spring of 2019, Sidney’s new Community Safety Building (CSB) will be a central facility for emergency preparedness on the Saanich Peninsula. Home for the Sidney Fire Department, B.C. Ambulance Services, and the Peninsula Emergency Measures Organization, the CSB will also serve as an important training facility and emergency operations centre. The strategic integration of these public safety emergency services under one roof will be further strengthened by the pending technology upgrade that will see a Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications Inc (CREST) transmission site co-located in the building to enhance emergency communications in the area.
“To ensure that Sidney’s CSB allows for the optimal delivery of public safety services, CREST, the Sidney Fire Department and The Town of Sidney got together to share information that resulted in identifying a future dedicated, purpose-built space in the CSB in anticipation of increased density and growth in the area,” explained Brett Mikkelsen, Fire Chief, Town of Sidney, who has played an instrumental role in ensuring that the design of the new CSB meets the operational needs of the tenant organizations. “We appreciate CREST’s professional commitment to our first responders across the region. Public safety and public confidence is at the heart of our work. Inclusion of CREST infrastructure further demonstrates our commitment to house mission critical emergency response assets and infrastructure within a state of the art post disaster rated facility”.
“CREST applauds the Town of Sidney and the Sidney Fire Department for their foresight and collaboration as they prepare for the future,” said Gordon Horth, General Manager, CREST who is responsible for the $25-million emergency telecommunications upgrade that is rolling out in three phases over the next 18 months across the Capital Region. “Working together with the Town of Sidney and with Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen, we were able to make proactive decisions that maximize efficiencies and strengthen public and responder safety throughout the Saanich Peninsula for the coming decades. Being included in the design of a post-disaster rated building at the time of planning and construction is operationally and fiscally advantageous for everyone.”
CREST is undergoing a technology renewal project to replace the existing 15-year old radio system that currently serves 50 emergency response agencies within the Capital Region. The new radio system is based on digital radio technology known as Project 25 (P25), which provides first responders with improved audio clarity and coverage among other operational and safety benefits. P25 represents a suite of standards for digital radio communications used by federal, provincial/state and local emergency response agencies across North America. It is considered a world standard.
The new P25 system is now built-out in the Core Area (Victoria, Esquimalt Saanich and Oak Bay). Rigorous testing, system optimization and training on the new P25 technology with emergency responders began last fall and the new radios are consistently delivering clearer audio quality and much stronger coverage as promised. Transition to the live-site in the Core Area is anticipated this fall. Phase 2 (Saanich Peninsula) is underway with installations and field testing taking place throughout the year. Migration over to the new system is planned for early 2019. Phase 3 (Westshore, Gulf Islands and Pacific Rim) is on track to be completed by the end of 2019. The existing Smartzone system will continue to provide emergency communication services while the regional roll out of P25 takes place. When fully implemented, the P25 system capacity will increase by 30%, handling over 2500 mobile and portable radios and over 50 in-vehicle repeaters from 30 transmission towers strategically located across the Capital Region.
CREST provides emergency radio communications for 50 emergency response agencies in B.C.’s Capital Region. This includes fire departments, police departments and ambulance services. Over 7.5 million calls per year go through the system, or one call every four seconds.
CREST was formed in 2001 and its radio communications network has been operational since 2003. Prior to CREST, public safety organizations in the CRD used more than 30 different radio communications systems. These systems were not integrated and critical public safety connectivity was not possible. In addition to improved audio clarity and building penetration coverage, the new P25 system will allow for agencies to communicate with each other seamlessly strengthening response capabilities in the case of critical incident or natural disaster.
The P25 renewal project includes a hybrid system of 700 MHz and VHF frequencies. 700 MHz penetrates buildings better and the core areas have larger and more dense structures than the region’s outlying jurisdictions. VHF frequencies tend to penetrate forests better and generally have longer reach. As the core areas (Phase 1 and Phase 2) roll out, existing VHF frequencies will be relocated to increase service to the Pacific Rim and Gulf Island areas.