Artists’ renderings of the City of Nanaimo’s Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (S2 Architecture/City of Nanaimo image)

New Nanaimo fire hall will adhere to upgraded communication requirements

Groundbreaking happening this week for Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street

With a new fire hall will come greater communication abilities, says Nanaimo’s fire chief.

Construction of the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 will get underway Wednesday, July 29, with a groundbreaking ceremony.

Regional District of Nanaimo directors are being asked today, July 28, to approve $2 million borrowing on behalf of the City of Nanaimo, as per Municipal Finance Authority regulations, for the new fire station on Fitzwilliam Street. The project has an estimated price tag of $20 million and will see construction of a building that will house firefighting, emergency coordination, dispatch and fire command services.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue is scheduled to move into its new digs in September 2022 and fire Chief Karen Fry said the dispatch will comply with ‘next-generation’ 911 fire infrastructure upgrades required of fire departments nationwide by 2024.

Fry said the new communications centre will evolve from the current analog system to “all digital and internet protocol-based.”

“I think new technology in the 911 setting is really beneficial,” said Fry. “911’s really evolved since the early ’80s when it came to B.C. and this is the newest phase that will allow people opportunities to text a message to 911 or to send video messages to a 911 centre and to able to be located through in-call location if they are moving when they’re talking to 911 dispatchers.”

Fry also said that in-call location could benefit police.

“If you were perhaps, captured or captive and you were in a vehicle and you called 911, as you moved along, the police could ping your phone again and it would update your location … if I picked up my cellphone right now and dialed 911 it would give a pretty good proximity of where I am at the moment that I dialed the number,” said Fry.

However, Fry said if someone continued to run or drive, there currently isn’t the ability to find out where you’ve gone.

“In the future, one of those things is called in-call location update … and they will be able to say that car, person, or caller is now 500 metres north of this location, so that’s a good thing and they use that a lot for people that are lost or have been kidnapped or things potentially like Amber Alerts,” said Fry.

RELATED: Cost to build new Nanaimo Fire Station No. 1 jumps $3 million

While the fire station is in Nanaimo city boundaries, the RDN could see some benefit, according to Ian Thorpe, Nanaimo councillor and RDN board chairman.

“Certainly the City of Nanaimo is part of the regional district and increased fire rescue services helps everybody,” said Thorpe. “It’s primarily in the City of Nanaimo for sure, but the overall level of service is going to improve.”

The communications centre’s coverage is from Shawnigan Lake/Lake Cowichan to Lantzville areas, said Fry, with 26 fire departments that the centre serves as dispatcher for.

Borrowing for the fire station is being planned in three phases, according to an RDN staff report, with $3.2 million previously borrowed in 2018.

According to Jeannie Bradburne, RDN director of finance, municipal borrowing legislation states that only regional districts may undertake debt, which is why the RDN is borrowing on the city’s behalf.

RELATED: City of Nanaimo fire station No. 1 plans unveiled

RELATED: Fire station No. 1 gets go-ahead from Nanaimo citizens

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