The City of Grande Prairie Fire Department has seen a consistent increase in calls for the last three years. At a recent update to a city committee data showed about an extra 1,000 calls each year to 911 during the first quarter.
Fire Chief Preben Bossen said they couldn’t point to one singular cause for the increase.
“It’s general across our area and it’s general probably across the province of Alberta. I think it is just a sign of busier times and probably more people moving to the province for work.”
While Bossen says there is no hard data to indicate it, he believes the on-going opioid crisis has contributed to an increase in their medical co-response calls. In the first quarter of 2017 they went along on 788 calls compared to 1,030 in 2018. Bossen says they do have some ability to decide which calls they do go to.
“We work with Alberta Health [Services] to determine where we add the most value. So obviously the highest priority calls and the more serious calls where they need more help, down to sort of the lesser severe calls where they really don’t need us. So we try to find that happy medium.”
He says they do review the “dispatch determinants” from time to time to ensure they are striking that balance.
Bossen also told city staff about the success they had transitioning to the Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System (AFRRCS). AHS and STARS already use the province-wide system and the RCMP and county fire department are also expected to adopt the system in the near future. Bossen says it really makes it safer for their crews.
“Previously we had two channels but we got very poor coverage. So, we couldn’t communicate between units. And capacity, now we have many more channels on this new system. Where we had two prior now we have basically unlimited channels.”
The system also works outside the region. Bossen says they have used it in Slave Lake, High Level and Zama.