Province to upgrade emergency communications system

Unreliable FleetNet is 26 years old 
and at the end of its service life

With sporadic flooding this spring and grassfire season just around the corner, one reeve in Manitoba says at least they know they won’t be handling emergencies much longer without proper communications systems.

Provincial officials say they are finalizing a request for proposals to replace Manitoba’s now obsolete FleetNet public safety emergency communications system.

“We are committed to a fair and open procurement process, while recognizing the urgency of replacing the obsolete FleetNet emergency communications system,” said Finance Minister Cameron Friesen March 29.

Jim Swidersky is glad to hear it. The reeve of the RM of Stuartburn says they’ve waited years while government talked about doing something.

“It’s definitely good news,” said Swidersky. “Over the years listening to government talking about planning to do something, about upgrading it, and not sure what they were going to do… this is good news to know they are planning to do something.”

He didn’t know how long the process will take but knows the province sees the urgency.

“They’re well aware of the circumstances we had in 2011 and 2012.”

Stuartburn endured weather emergencies both years, including a freak wildfire in the fall of 2012 when first responders had to text ground forces or rely on cell service wherever it actually was available. When it failed completely, firefighters resorted to yelling on street corners to get people to evacuate in the village of Vita.

Swidersky has given provincial officials an earful on the matter ever since.

“It’s important to have one dedicated reliable source of communication,” he said, adding they hope the proposal process proceeds quickly.

The province said its intent is to outsource the process to acquire a replacement service through a qualified, independent third party and the request for proposals is expected to be issued within 60 days.

FleetNet is 26 years old and has reached the end of its service life.

Replacement parts for the system have not been manufactured since 2003.

The proposal will include requirements for a modern digital encrypted communications system that meets current technical standards, deployment on a radio frequency reserved for public safety and public service use, and additional towers to expand coverage in currently under-serviced areas.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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