Emergency responders upset radio plan ditched

Emergency responders in P.E.I. are disappointed a plan to create a regional emergency radio system has been scrapped.

Emergency responders in P.E.I. are disappointed a plan to create a regional emergency radio system has been scrapped.

A shared system to make it easier for ambulance, fire departments, and police to communicate was in the works, but the three Maritime provinces announced this week they can't afford it.

Firefighters have difficulties connecting with paramedics, police and other firefighters because the radio equipment keeps breaking down, said Tim Jenkins, president of the P.E.I. Firefighters Association.

"It means trying your radio, seeing if you can get through. A lot of times, trying two or three times. You figure you can't get through, and then, finding a cellphone somewhere and trying to make a phone call seeing if you can't get through that way," said Jenkins.

Each fire department has a different system and Jenkins said he would like to see that replaced with one system for all emergency services.

"Preferably, of course, you'd like to have one radio system that works Island-wide and anybody can talk to anybody — like this initiative was for," said Jenkins.

"It's most important for firefighters that we can talk to our firefighters. You hate to keep relating back to it — but the World Trade Centre — radios didn't work, and we know what happened there."

Police disappointed

To fix the problem, the province decided to team up with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick three years ago to create a new Maritime-wide radio system that would allow all emergency services to talk to each other.

"The financial components were considered, the technical components were considered, and at the end of the deliberations, it was decided not to proceed," said Aaron Campbell, director of public safety.

The province isn't saying exactly how much the job would have cost, but it's estimated to be several hundred million dollars.

The federal government had pledged $50 million toward the project.

Charlottetown Police are also disappointed the project isn't going ahead.

It had been testing a digital radio system to use until the new Maritime-wide system was in place. Now, police said they'll have to find something more permanent.

"We'll go back into our budget, and we will look at budgeting for a more permanent solution to any radio issues that we have," said Gary MacGuigan, deputy chief of police.

The province said it has no more plans to update radio systems.