Oshawa, Ajax looking to team up to handle fire dispatch services for all of Durham Region

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Published April 6, 2023 at 9:07 am

Oshawa and Ajax are looking to join forces to handle all fire dispatch services for Durham Region at one command centre located at Oshawa Fire Headquarters on Adelaide St. E.

The CRTC mandated new standards for dispatch computer systems last year, with the implementation of Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) taking place throughout Canada over the next two years. The current system is reaching end-of-life capacity and will be decommissioned by March 2025.

The mandate forced Oshawa, who already provides a consolidated fire dispatch for Whitby, Clarington and the three northern townships in addition to its own needs, to commit $2.245 million in this year’s budget for the new system, which is bigger than the City needs right now to allow for future expansion.

That prompted the Town of Ajax, which currently handles fire calls for both Ajax and Pickering, to contact Oshawa last year to see if the two municipalities could work something out.

“Ajax reached out to us about sharing services and because we had the space, our staff thought it was a good idea,” said Safety and Facilities Committee Chair Brian Nicholson.

With operating costs split between the municipalities (with the three mostly rural townships counting as one for cost purposes), the new partnership could save Oshawa as much as 28 per cent in operating costs, Nicholson said. “The costs will now be split six ways instead of four.”

And because the Town of Ajax would no longer have to shell out for the new dispatch system, it would save the money on that end as well, he added.

“It’s a win-win proposition for everyone,” Nicholson noted. “It’s a good deal.”

The new NG 9-1-1 system will enable new methods of communication such as text, photos and video, providing greater “situational awareness and enable efficient sharing of information to deliver the right resources to the right location, in the fastest way possible to people in need of emergency response,” Oshawa staff explained in a report to Council, which approved moving the talks forward at Monday’s meeting.

For example, residents could stream videos from an emergency incident, send photos of accidents, a fleeing suspect, or send personal medical information, including accessibility needs, which will aid in reducing response time for emergency personnel.

The potential consolidation would provide a coordinated fire dispatch response which would also allow better co-ordination for major incidents and improve co-ordination of firefighting in border areas, the report stated.

It could also lead to greater efficiencies, cost reductions and improvements in public safety, as well as enhanced collaboration and communication between all of the Region of Durham’s municipal fire services and other emergency services.

Over the last several years many municipalities have undertaken the process of consolidating their respective fire dispatch centres into one centre to achieve resource and cost efficiencies, with the Region of Waterloo, which amalgamated their emergency dispatch services in 2019, being the closest example to what is being proposed in Oshawa.

Both the City of Oshawa and Town of Ajax operate Public-Safety Answering Point (P.S.A.P.) communication/dispatch systems, in conjunction with the primary 911 centre operated by Durham Regional Police. As well, both Oshawa Fire Services and the Ajax Fire Services utilize the identical Computer Aided Dispatch systems and have many similar operating policies and guidelines.

The deal still has to be approved at Ajax Council.

Photo: Oshawa Fire

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