Calgary Fire Dept. to take over monitoring

Adds own monitoring center for fire calls, promises to not compete with private stations
Tuesday, June 1, 2004

CALGARY, Alberta - The Calgary Fire Department is moving ahead with plans to establish its own monitoring center for fire calls, promising to work with private industry and not compete against it.
“We’re not trying to jump in there and push anyone out of the way,” said John Conley, public information officer for the Calgary Fire Department.

The Calgary City Council granted authority in early May enabling the fire department to monitor fire calls directly from its 911 center to the disappointment of the Canadian Security Association.

Rick Snook, spokesman for CANASA, said his organization had difficulty responding to the city’s plan because no logistics were discussed with the alarm industry. “One of the issues we’re dealing with is there is no structure to the program, so we can’t assess the impact on our industry, or if there is one,” Snook said.

Conley said alarms received by monitoring companies were delayed approximately four minutes before being relayed to the fire department’s dispatch center. Eliminating that delay is just one facet of the CFD’s multifaceted approach to reducing response times to emergency calls, he said.

Calgary, in oil-producing Alberta, has seen its fortunes and population bloom in recent years. The population of 980,000 is expected to grow steadily, according to Conley. Sixteen percent of the buildings have security systems, he said.

Calgary’s urban sprawl is causing problems for the fire department, which does not have enough fire stations to meet the need, according to Snook. If the city had sat down with industry representatives and discussed the issues, each side would have had a better understanding of the needs and options for addressing them, he said.

The industry disagrees, for example, that redirection is a problem, Snook said. It can be addressed with existing technology. Also, the city could have mandated sprinkler systems to reduce fire loss. “We just think there could have been better dialogue,” he said.

The industry also has a number of liability concerns.

“Are we going to be dealing with customers or are we contractors of the fire department?” Snook said.

The fire department plans to set up a task force and invite alarm industry representatives to participate, but has yet to set when a task force will meet.

The effort is intended to raise public awareness of fire safety issues, Conley said, which should result in a increase in business for the fire alarm industry.