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By Brock Weir
Premier Doug Ford was flanked by local firefighters last Thursday while announcing new measures that will increase public safety.
Joined by Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, Mr. Ford announced a significant province-wide modernization project that will replace infrastructure in Ontario's Public Safety Radio Network, a resource which frontline and first responders rely on during emergency situations.
“This modernization project is long overdue," said Premier Ford. "Our frontline and emergency responders need to have reliable, modern tools and resources in place to do their jobs and we are going to make sure this life-saving system gets underway."
This multi-faceted project will ensure Ontario's more than 38,000 frontline and emergency responders — including OPP police officers, paramedics and hospital staff, fire services, provincial highway maintenance staff, as well as enforcement and correctional officers — can count on the communications infrastructure, network and equipment they need when responding to emergencies.
"Ontario's Public Safety Radio Network is one of the largest and most complex in North America and yet one of the last not to comply with the North American standard," said Michael Tibollo, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. "The daily service outages experienced with the network compromise our frontline and emergency responders' ability to react to emergencies and put the safety of the public at risk."
The modernization project will:
Rebuild the network's aging infrastructure (telecommunications towers, antennae, shelters and technology) that provides essential public safety radio coverage across the province
Provide frontline and emergency responders, as well as their dispatchers, with the state-of-the-art radio equipment and consoles they need to manage calls and ensure the right responders get to the right place with the right information at the right time
Provide maintenance services to restore network connection and repair equipment for a duration of 15 years.
"The Public Safety Radio Network is essential to helping front-line responders communicate with each other to provide Ontarians with vital emergency services," said Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "By replacing this aging system with state-of-the-art technology, we are providing resources to paramedics, police officers, fire services and others to keep Ontarians safe."
The new network is expected to be fully operational by 2023, with new service phased in by 2021. Infrastructure, equipment and services required to set up and maintain the new network will be acquired through a multi-vendor procurement process. The new network will also present potential opportunities for generating revenue, which will benefit taxpayers. In the meantime, a risk mitigation strategy has been developed to ensure that public safety is not compromised and that the current network is maintained until the new network is fully operational.
“The recent tornadoes experienced in Eastern Ontario prove how important it is for us to modernize our Public Safety Radio Network," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "The upgrades will help municipal first responders like paramedics, fire services and police do their important jobs better.”
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