A new emergency radio system designed to make it easier for police, fire and ambulance workers to talk to each other will roll out province-wide in 2014, the government announced last week.
Construction on the new $370-million system is expected to start this year, Solicitor General Frank Oberle announced at an Edmonton fire hall on Friday. The project, awarded to Harris Systems Canada, will be a great benefit to everyone in the province, he said.
“This new radio system is all about safety, of our family, our friends, our neighbours and those that put their lives on line to protect us.”
Oberle said the new system would help the agencies talk to one another and work together easier and more efficiently.
“It will mean more comprehensive response when dealing with minor emergencies and major disasters.”
The government consulted police and fire agencies across the province about the new system, to come up with a plan that will work for everyone, he added.
“Their input and expertise has resulted in the development of a system that will accommodate 700 different agencies in Alberta.”
St. Albert installed a new $1.2-million radio communications system for fire, ambulance and other city services in 2009, upgrading a much older system.
Deputy fire Chief Darrel Bliss said the new provincial system would work with St. Albert’s upgraded system.
“We were assured with a slight modification our radios would be compatible with the provincial system that was contemplated.”
Bliss said there are plenty of situations where the fire department might want to be able to talk to nearby agencies.
“There are different times when we need to work with each other, our neighbours,” he said, “any time there is an incident that affects our border or even cases where we need to ask for assistance from our neighbours, or vice versa.”
Sturgeon County fire Chief Pat Mahoney said it’s now possible for his department to talk to others, as happened during last summer’s wildfires in Thorhild County, but added anything that makes communications easier is appreciated.
Sturgeon County recently started evaluating its system, and though the infrastructure is older, it is still in good working order, he said.
Mahoney added the cost of new radios capable of working with the provincial system could be an issue, but he is waiting to see more information.
Oberle said he didn’t see the cost issue as being cost prohibitive for municipalities and it should work with equipment municipalities already have.
“Most municipalities will have some limited functionality with their current radio equipment. They will be replacing their radios as they reach obsolescence, but most will have some functionality right off the bat.”