A city project to create a new, adequately sized backup 911 dispatch centre in Owen Sound should be finished by the end of May, says police Chief Craig Ambrose.
He said the current facility – a backup site for the department’s dispatch centre, which handles all 911 calls in Grey-Bruce and dispatch duties for seven police and 27 fire services – is inside the Owen Sound fire hall.
But Owen Sound Fire & Emergency Services needs that space, which is also too small for the department’s current needs, so the facility is being moved to the public works building on 20th Street East.
The move has been in the works since 2018.
“It’s key because we have a service that we provide not just for the community here in Owen Sound, but all of Grey and Bruce and all of the fire services in Grey and Bruce as well as police in and outside of Grey and Bruce counties,” Ambrose said.
“Certainly, people count on the fact that when they call 911, they have somebody there to respond to that emergency. And having an appropriate backup site is just as important as having an initial dispatch site. Moving forward, it’s the next step in keeping that line of communication open.”
Dennis Kefalas, the city’s director of public works and engineering, said the backup centre will take up about five per cent – essentially one office – of the public works building.
A permit was issued in March for the renovation work.
The space requires a new heating, cooling and ventilation system and new electrical and telecommunication lines.
That will cost roughly $50,000, Ambrose said, but property taxpayers won’t be on the hook. It will be covered by 911 tariffs and revenue from third-party background checks.
Kefalas said work to create the centre’s walls will be done in-house by city staff.
The city will also repurpose a generator, he said, so the site has a backup power supply.
Ambrose said four employees typically work at a time in the dispatch centre. They would move over to the backup site if, for example, the lines to the main centre go down or are cut.
“It’s a completely redundant system to what we have here, so you can actually operate out of there the same as you could out of here,” he said.
Kefalas said relocating the centre to the public works building, which has extra room since the engineering department moved back to the city hall, is a perfect fit.
The public works building would become an emergency operations centre if an emergency were to occur in the city, he said.
“So we’d have dispatch; we’d have everyone under one roof and have all the vehicles needed to address any sort of emergency located in one area. So it worked out really well,” he said.