A pair of volunteer radio teams set up to provide critical communications during a disaster are set to merge into one to increase efficiency when it is needed most.
The Town of View Royal and City of Colwood councils have both approved the merger of each municipality’s teams effective Jan. 1, 2023, with View Royal’s council approving the move at a meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 6), and Colwood at a meeting on Nov. 28.
“It’s a win-win for both municipalities,” said View Royal Fire Rescue Chief Paul Hurst. “Disasters don’t have municipal boundaries, so if we need assistance, it’s better to have one team serving both municipalities.”
Hurst said the merger is just the latest step in a wider initiative to bring emergency services on the West Shore closer together for the sake of improving services available to all residents in the area.
More moves in this direction are expected to be made in the coming year.
It is already rare for fire departments in Langford, Colwood or View Royal to respond to a structure fire alone, with trucks and crews typically dispatched to the scene from all three departments.
The merger means the emergency radio team will benefit from having a single leader while effectively doubling the number of volunteers and equipment available to each municipality, Hurst said. It will also see training improvements.
Given the team’s mission, Hurst said it is hard to find any downsides to the merger.
“The fire service relies on the (Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications) network day to day, and the emergency radio operators use a completely different (amateur) radio system, so if we lose our cell towers in a disaster and lose our CREST system with it, then this group of people become our lifeline.”
In a disaster, emergency radio teams would staff radio rooms in both fire departments and become the main form of communication for the departments, both internally, between each other and even between other agencies and governments across the province.
“They are a highly motivated and extremely dedicated group of volunteers,” said Hurst. “That’s what makes this work so well.”
View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias said approving the merger was an easy decision for him, as his military background emphasizes the importance of communication efficiency.