Deer Lake fire chief still has concerns with 911 system

Gary Kean
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Deer Lake fire Chief John Dinney

A provincewide 911 system is great news, but fire Chief John Dinney is interested in learning more about how it will work.

The provincial government followed up on its commitment to have an emergency calling system in place for every landline in Newfoundland and Labrador by announcing legislation to make it happen Tuesday.

Dinney is the chief for the Deer Lake Volunteer Fire Department, which serves a large area where 911 is not available. Right now, anyone in his department coverage’s area, ranging from Wiltondale in Bonne Bay in the west to the Birchy Narrows area of the Trans-Canada Highway east of Deer Lake, has to dial a seven-digit number — 635-2323 — to place an emergency call for assistance.

He has encountered situations where people don’t know the correct number to call right away. There have also been situations where spotty cellphone coverage within his jurisdiction has prevented emergency calls from being made.

There have even been times when Dinney’s own crews have been called to scenes where backup assistance was required, but there was no cellphone coverage to make that call quickly.

“There are a lot of snags into it that have yet to come out,” he said Tuesday. “Whether or not they’re going to be corrected and how they are going to be corrected and who is going to correct them is still a concern.”

Dinney would like to have seen provincewide cell phone service made a priority so the 911 system could be accessible in every community and along the province’s highways.

“If we get the right call in the right way, we may get there and be OK,” he said. “But we may get to a motor vehicle accident scene and then there’s a multi-car pileup when you’re there. That becomes a problem.”

Other ongoing concerns include the accuracy of the location for calls that come in via some home security systems. Dinney’s crews have encountered responses to locations that were close, but not exactly where they should have been headed.

The fact that some residences do not have a number clearly displayed on them can also create problems when trying to respond to emergency calls in a timely manner.

Dinney would like to see the 911 plan include every community being mandated to require their residents to comply with displaying civic addresses clearly.

“If we don’t get the right information for where we’re trying to get to, it delays the time for us getting there,” he said.

Organizations: Volunteer Fire Department, Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador, Wiltondale Bonne Bay

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