Changes coming to Ponoka’s fire and EMS dispatch

The fire and ambulance dispatch centre for Ponoka is closing this year.

The fire and ambulance dispatch centre for Ponoka is closing this year.

These changes come after a report from the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) recommended only two EMS centres for the entire province.

Fire Chief Ted Dillon received notice from the Rocky Mountain House dispatch centre that Oct. 14 is the last day they expect to be open and he must now look at other options. Red Deer and Black Diamond have 911 call centres and Dillon has already met with Red Deer deputy fire chiefs to discuss services. “Red Deer already does Rimbey, Lacombe and everybody around us.”

Although a decision has not yet been made, Dillon says this will cost Ponoka more for the services because the Rocky dispatch centre takes the Telus 911 assignment to handle calls.

“We were very fortunate to have Rocky do it for that. The other providers are all charging per capita charge,” added Dillon.

He has not received the full details from Red Deer yet so is unable to say what those costs would actually be and town councillors will also have to make a decision on where Ponoka’s dispatch service will be. The Innisfail and Rocky Mountain House fire departments also need to make a decision where they will have their dispatch centres but there are not too many options.

Handling 911 calls is not an easy task. Call takers at these dispatch centres take special fire, police and EMS training and must be able to handle many different callers. They need to understand and determine the severity of a call. “There’s a lot of questions that have to be asked.”

One of the benefits of using the Red Deer centre is they may have a better understanding of the area but all dispatchers have maps of the specific areas they are in. Since Ponoka County changed its addressing system it has helped firefighters and dispatchers get to a location but Dillon always asks for directions in the event a road has become closed or impassible.

“Because GPSs don’t know when roads are closed,” explained Dillon.

He still needs to meet with Red Deer emergency dispatch centre and town councillors will have to make a decision on where Ponoka will have its dispatch centre.

Ponoka has been using the Rocky centre since 2007.