Earlier this week, the province announced it will be replacing its aging communications system and the La Broquerie Fire Chief is breathing a big sigh of relief.
On Wednesday, the province awarded the tender to replace the current FleetNet system to Bell MTS, which will be responsible for end-to-end service delivery and the ownership and operation of towers, radios and antennae. The root of the replacement dates back to 2012 when emergency responders experienced complications while communicating with one another during wildfires in the RMs of Stuartburn, La Broquerie and Piney due to poor cell reception and the FleetNet system being down.
"This is huge. This is a game changer," says Al Nadeau noting the change could potentially be lifesaving. He adds communication is the most essential piece when fighting fires and saving lives. Nadeau recalls instances where they had to rely on texts to communicate amongst firefighters.
"Just a few miles to the south towards Marchand and my Fleet radio stops working. The night we evacuated Marchand, we had to rely on tech signals and then the guys would text their friends and then their friends would put it on Facebook to start evacuating Marchand. I mean, that's a little better than smoke signals, but that's old technology."
Nadeau notes they have had a number of large emergencies where they had to communicate between neighbouring municipalities like Piney and Stuartburn and he says it's difficult with their small VHF radios so they needed the FleetNet system. "We've had some big incidents in the past where communication was just unbelievably terrible," adds Nadeau.
The new system, Nadeau explains, is all digital and will have a clear and more direct signal. He notes the system also has new features such as a GPS locator on each radio and gives them the opportunity to easily contact RCMP, EMS, Manitoba Infrastructure and natural resources which he says will be significantly more efficient.
Premier Brian Pallister says the new $380 million public safety communications service is expected to be implemented over the next three years.