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Fire service group seeking standardized dispatch system

Art Rose (left), Yarmouth County director for the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia, and Paul Gould, the association’s alternate director in Yarmouth County, during a presentation to Argyle municipal council on Jan. 8.
Art Rose (left), Yarmouth County director for the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia, and Paul Gould, the association’s alternate director in Yarmouth County, at an Argyle municipal council meeting on Jan. 8. - Eric Bourque

The province’s municipal units are being asked to support a resolution from the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia (FSANS) that would “open a discussion ... towards rationalizing fire dispatch across the province.”

The resolution calls for the fire dispatch standard developed by FSANS to serve as the “guiding principle” in the discussion, which the resolution says should include the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia and the provincial government.

The standard, which was adopted in 2017, offers guidance regarding minimum technical, structural and operational requirements of a professional dispatch service.

FSANS representatives in Yarmouth County say the fire service association was examining fire dispatch in Nova Scotia long before fire dispatch became such a big topic in this part of the province last year after the Town of Yarmouth announced it was looking to lay off its dispatchers.

The town’s position was that its taxpayers were paying an unfairly high percentage of the cost of the dispatch service, which was used by numerous fire departments in southwestern Nova Scotia. Efforts to get the Town of Yarmouth to maintain its dispatchers eventually failed, leaving fire departments having to find other dispatch options.

“Dispatch has been an issue for over 10 years,” said Paul Gould, alternate director for FSANS in Yarmouth County, referring to the provincial association’s examination of dispatch services across Nova Scotia.

He spoke of the Yarmouth dispatch centre as “probably one of the best in the province.”

Said Art Rose, the fire service association’s Yarmouth County director, “We didn’t want to lose Yarmouth because of the local knowledge and the local dispatchers.”

Still, Rose said he sees a provincewide fire dispatch centre being a possibility down the line.

“Why we were scared of it in this area (during the uncertainty with the Yarmouth dispatch service) is because all the technology is not here available for us,” Rose said. “In the future, yes, I can see it happening.”

But the priority for now, he said, should be standardization.

“Whether it’s in Digby or Cape Breton” or anywhere else in the province, he said, “it’s standardization that we’ve got to go for.”

Rose is the Port Maitland fire chief. Gould is deputy chief of the fire department in Quinan. Fire dispatch standardization was on the agenda of the Jan. 8 meeting of Argyle municipal council, where Gould and Rose made a presentation.

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