Retired OPP inspector calling for province-wide emergency communications system

As Ontario's 911 communications system comes under scrutiny after a coroner's inquest into two deaths, a retired Ontario Provincial Police inspector is calling on the province to “bite the bullet” on establishing a costly, province-wide emergency communications system.

Coroner's inquest delivers 'compassionate' recommendations, but similar calls were made ten years ago

Mark Andrews, a retired OPP inspector, says it's time the province 'bought the bullet' and establish an over-arching 911 system. (CBC)

As Ontario's 911 communications system comes under scrutiny after a coroner's inquest into two deaths, a retired Ontario Provincial Police inspector is calling on the province to "bite the bullet" on establishing a costly, province-wide emergency communications system.

Mark Andrews said although the jury made "good, compassionate" recommendations with a goal of having them in place by 2023, very similar recommendations were made as far back as 1996.

Stephanie Bertrand, Michael Kritz and Matthew Humeniuk died after the boat they were in crashed into an island on Lake Wanapitei in 2013. (Supplied)

"When you think about how many lives have been shattered and families broken because we can't get there, yet….it's frustrating," Andrews told CBC's Up North.

During the inquest, a  jury handed down dozens of recommendations after hearing details of two different tragedies.

Included wasone about the bungling of a 911 response the night of a boat crash near Sudbury in June of 2013, which killed three people.

The other tragedy involved the mishandling of a 911 call made by an Ottawa-area woman in 2014, who suffered an asthma attack and was found two days later.

Andrews said one of the recommendations he would like to see in place quickly is basic, consistent training for 911 dispatchers across the province. Currently, a handful of colleges offer training for dispatchers, and some jurisdictions offer their own training.

That has to change, Andrews said.

"It doesn't matter if you're in Sioux Lookout phoning 911 or Leamington calling 911, you talk to 911 dispatchers that are trained the same way," Andrews said.

"You should be able to take a 911 dispatcher out of this call centre, drop them in this one, and they should be able to start working," Andrews said. "That's not the case."

Municipalities are also in charge of establishing these emergency response systems, Andrews said, which can be expensive. 

"Who dropped the ball? I don't know," he said. "But if people would sit cooperatively down, and say 'let's put this in place.'"

"How many more people have to die?"

To hear the full interview with Mark Andrews, click the audio link below.

More people are going to die if the province's 911 communications system isn't improved -- fast. We hear from a long-time emergency services worker who weighs in on recommendations that come from a recent inquiry looking into Ontario's 911 system. 6:56