New 911 call centre up and running in Whitehorse

Officials from multiple departments and levels of government were in Whitehorse yesterday to show off the new 911 dispatch centre.

Officials from multiple departments and levels of government were in Whitehorse yesterday to show off the new 911 dispatch centre.

The territory’s dispatchers were moved from a tiny call centre in the Whitehorse RCMP detachment to their new digs earlier this month.

The move to a larger location is the next step towards having 911 available across the territory. The plan is to have that up and running by the end of the summer.

“This facility is the nerve centre for RCMP operations in the territory,” said Yukon RCMP Chief Superintendent Peter Clark.

“Employees working in this room have a vital role in responding to the public and supporting the safety of first responders across the Yukon.”

The media has been asked to keep the new location quiet out of safety concerns.

At the call centre dispatchers are responsible for knowing where all the territory’s on-duty and on-call RCMP officers are at every minute.

“Anyone who calls the RCMP in the Yukon, for the most part, is going to get us. Whether you’re in Old Crow, Watson Lake, or in Whitehorse,” said Gaylene Shoemaker, the RCMP’s unit commander.

Dispatchers are trained to process the calls, assess the danger to both the caller and the officers, and send help.

Aside from sending out more officers they can dispatch other types of help, including collision reconstructionalists, the major crimes unit, police service dogs and search-and-rescue aircraft.

Right now 911 is only available in Whitehorse. The territory has been working on expanding 911 across the territory for years.

Justice Minister Brad Cathers called the new building an “important step” in achieving that goal.

The centre is equipped with the necessary equipment to accommodate the expansion. The territory has also provided funding to help hire and train additional RCMP operators to handle the increased volume of 911 calls.

The Yukon was going to implement a temporary solution to get 911 across the territory. The idea was that people in the community could dial 911 and they’d directed to a recorded message to press either one, two or three depending on what kind of help they need. But that didn’t happen.

In late 2014 the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the interim plan, with a few conditions. The CRTC said a caller couldn’t just be forwarded to the appropriate seven-digit number because there was no guarantee they would connect with a live person on the other end.

Cathers said meeting the conditions would have required too much work, especially considering it was only supposed to be a short-term solution while true 911 got up and running.

It was decided “that implementing the interim solution was going to result in focusing on work we’d then be replacing once we went to basic 911, and probably delay basic 911,” he said.

The government of Yukon invested $334,000 to move the call centre and the government of Canada contributed an additional $142,000 through the territorial police services agreement.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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