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Fire department looking at joining forces with others

Following the wildfire that blazed through Fort McMurray in May 2016, the Grande Prairie Fire Department is joining up with other communities to back each other up. Grande Prairie is looking at joining forces with Parkland County and Strathcona County to be back up dispatch centres for each other.

In the case of one of the communities 9-1-1 operating centres going down, another could operate the centre through theirs. Fire Chief Dan Lemieux says the partnership is to avoid problems connecting with emergency personnel if a major disaster were to happen.

“In the past it was very difficult because we couldn’t talk to each other through radio. Now there is a new provincial radio system and technologies that will allow us to work closely together. Perhaps we could even do some dispatching for each other.”

He says to stay on the same page, all three centres will try to upgrade and stay with the same technology.

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“We would do some standard operating procedures and common training. If we are all using the same computer aided dispatch, we could do some common training. If there was ever a disaster in Strathcona, we could send some dispatchers to Strathcona to operate their system or vice versa, they could come to Grande Prairie to help us out.”

The city’s Community Safety Committee has recommended that council approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the other communities. Their leaders will also need to do the same.

The Alberta First Responders Radio Communication System is being launched in Grande Prairie and Lemieux says they could see it arrive in the city within the next month.

“Technically, we could speak to Medicine Hat and we could speak to Lethbridge. We could speak to anyone in the province that is on that system.”

According to Lemieux, as technology changes, the way fire fighters receive information and operate will also change. He says in the future texting and sending videos to 9-1-1 will be possible.

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