Whitehorse emergency service centre opens

A new ambulance station has officially opened at the top of Two Mile Hill. Government officials, staff and media attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning. 

A new ambulance station has officially opened at the top of Two Mile Hill.

Government officials, staff and media attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning.

The $8.1-million Emergency Response Centre will shave minutes off how long people have to wait for an ambulance, said Michael McKeage, director of Emergency Medical Services.

Until now, the only permanent ambulance station in Whitehorse was located in Riverdale.

Since 2010, ambulances have also been sent out from a trailer at the top of Two Mile Hill. During construction of the new centre, that temporary dispatch centre was moved to the Whitehorse airport.

It takes four to five minutes for an ambulance to get from Riverdale to the top of the hill, said McKeage, and that can be longer in adverse weather or heavy traffic.

The new centre puts ambulances closer to hundreds of calls from areas beyond the top of the hill, he said.

Marco Paquet and Shandell McCarthy both spoke at the event. Their 17-month-old son Brennan chocked to death on a piece of dried macaroni three years ago.

It took the ambulance eight minutes to arrive at their house, a minute faster than the national standard.

The parents had previously opposed a proposed ambulance station in their Takhini neighbourhood, but since the accident have become champions of improved emergency services.

McCarthy said she does not know if an ambulance station at the top of Two Mile Hill would have saved her son. But she does not doubt that it will save others.

“I will never have my son back. But perhaps we may have helped save someone else’s son through our advocacy.”

The new centre is much better compared with what the department had before, said McKeage.

“This is so vastly improved from the places we were. It is just, from a training point of view, from this communications centre point of view, there’s really no comparison.

“I’ve seen a lot of them in the country, and I haven’t seen any one that’s as functional.”

The building meets LEED standards for environmental efficiency. It has also been designed to withstand earthquakes, and meets post-disaster construction standards.

It has a back up generator that can fully power the centre in the event of a power outage.

Downstairs, a drive-through ambulance bay has space for up to six vehicles.

Next to that are change rooms, a kitchen and a lounge for paramedics to relax while they wait for a call.

Upstairs are the administrative offices for Emergency Medical Services, and space for what will soon be the new dispatch and communications centre.

There are rooms for conferences and for skills training, with storage for equipment.

Having everything in such close proximity will greatly improve services, said McKeage.

“It’s going to allow us to do our job better for Yukoners.”

The government has been talking about a new ambulance station since 2004.

Originally, the plan was to co-operate with the city to house the station in Whitehorse’s new $10.9 million public safety building at the top of Two Mile Hill.

But negotiations for that fell through in 2007.

The major issue was timing, said Jerry McLachlan, senior advisor for protective services.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at