From left, Saanich Police Deputy Chief Scott Green, Saanich Fire Chief Mike Burgess, CREST General Manager Gordon Horth and CREST Board of Directors Chair Gordie Logan. Emergencies crews in the West Shore will be testing the new HRO system in the fall. (Black Press file photo)

CREST upgrades coming to the West Shore in the coming months

Testing of new HRO system to begin in the fall

Emergency responders on the West Shore will be working with a new hero soon.

In the coming months, agencies such as the Langford, View Royal, Metchosin, Highlands and Colwood fire departments and ambulances and will be upgrading their aging radios to the new HRO (pronounced hero) system.

“I think user agencies are anxious to get on to the new system. I think they’re pretty thrilled about what the next platform offers them,” said Gord Horth, general manager of Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST). “I think the project is going well and we’re looking forward to turning it on all across the region.”

RELATED: CREST upgrades almost operational in Capital Region

The three-phased approach began with upgrades to the downtown core, where emergency crews in Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich and Esquimalt have already been testing the new HRO system, and will make the full switch in June.

Phase two includes upgrades to systems in the West Shore and the Saanich Peninsula.

Horth said they’re currently in the process of building or securing sites to allow the technology to reach all areas of the region. They’ve been in discussions to build a site on Bear Mountain, at View Royal’s fire hall, one in Colwood and another near Sooke.

“We’ve been putting a lot of effort into it. We think the timetable is realistic,” Horth said. “Right now, we think the sites that we’ve identified in the West Shore, we’ll be given the green light to move toward and start building.”

A few sites have also been identified to expand service as the population continues to grow in the future.

The intention is to test the new system in the fall on the West Shore and have the new system fully transitioned by late this year.

RELATED: Motorola lands $13.1-million CREST contract

The HRO system will offer a number of benefits including improved audio clarity, better coverage and more channels, meaning higher capacity during peak hours.

“Instead of getting perhaps a busy signal for a couple of seconds before getting the go-ahead tones to talk, you’ll just get an instant go ahead tones,” Horth said.

“There’s capacity increase, there’s audio clarity and coverage gain.”

The new radios are part of a $25 million expenditure announced by CREST in June of last year to replace the units that are aging out.

There are about 50 different agencies involved in the radio replacement, including fire departments, police departments, ambulance services and transit.

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