Saskatoon fire chief says it's time for 911 dispatch system that can accept emergency texts, photos
The Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) wants to make a major upgrade to its 911 call centre.
On the second day of city council's deliberations for the 2022/23 multi-year budget, Saskatoon fire chief Morgan Hackl said the department is looking at replacing its 10-year-old dispatch system for “next-gen 911.”
Next-gen 911 makes it possible for callers to send texts, images or videos to dispatchers.
Hackl said the new system would make it easier for crews to locate the caller and lead to more informed emergency responses.
“Our dispatch centre handled approximately 94,000 calls for service in this year of 2021,” Hackl told city councillors during the budget meeting.
Hackle said about 80 per cent of calls originate from cell phones.
Installing next-gen 911 would require $1.2 million over the next two years, according to the city’s proposed multi-year budget.
The project is considered “unfunded.” The SFD is hoping to tap into the city's reserve fund for capital expenditures.
The other unfunded project would restructure how the department serves the city’s west end.
For the West End Service Model Restructure project, SFD says it needs $1.6 million in 2023 to purchase land.
While the department awaits reserve funding for those projects, its general budget was unanimously passed at city hall.
In the proposed budget prepared by city administration, it was suggested SFD receive $55.7 million next year and $57.2 million in 2023. The recommended amounts were approved by all city councillors.
Hackl said the money will include the cost of staffing, training, new fire trucks and uniforms.
Data presented at the budget meeting shows fire crews are taking longer to respond to emergencies.
SFD aims to respond to calls within six minutes and 20 seconds, 90 per cent of the time.
In 2018, crews hit the target 80 per cent of the time.
But in 2020, 74 per cent of the time crews hit their target response time.
“Increase of workload is impacting this benchmark. Over five years, SFD has seen over a 40 per cent increase in call volume,” Hackl said during the meeting, adding that new growth of the city is adding to the workload.
Budget talks are scheduled to continue on Wednesday.