Five years after they started to seriously pursue it, residents to the east of Atikokan now have 9-1-1 service.
“Well, officially, service starts on March 1, but we have had the service working now for a couple of weeks and have even had a few calls come through,” said Niobe Lake Fire Chief Matt Eady.
9-1-1 calls made from the area will now be handled the same way as 9-1-1 calls made from Atikokan. The area now getting coverage extends to the district line to the east (past Windigoostigwan, where Thunder Bay District begins), north to Olsons’ on Marmion Lake (the old Sapawe Hoist Camp), and south to Quetico Park.
The Niobe Lake & Area Property Protection Corp. – the legal entity behind the Niobe Lake Fire Service – launched the campaign to bring 9-1-1 service to the area in 2012. Jim Mills and a number of volunteers did the leg work.
At first, the 300 or so property owners vetoed the idea because of the cost – $200 each (plus an annual dispatch fee of $6 ). But the supporters of the idea persisted, and launched a fund-raising campaign that eventually brought the per household cost down to $100. That got nearly everyone on board.
The main expense was digitally mapping the whole area so that emergency responders could find their way around.
“For the fire service, that wasn’t such a big deal; we live here, we know our way around,” said Eady. “But it’s different for ambulance and fire – they really need that location information in the vehicle when they head out on a call.”
The fire chief said strong support from the businesses and organizations active in the area – Resolute Forest Products, Quetico Park (Ontario Parks), Tramin, Cross Contracting & Auctions, Sapawe Waste Management, Paul Gronski – made a big difference.
There has been some 9-1-1 service in the area, at least for cellular phone users. The problem was the 9-1-1 system itself didn’t recognize the area, so when a call was made it would be randomly assigned to a 9-1-1 call centre.
“It would always delay things. You could have a 9-1-1 call from here that got answered in Houston, Texas. They’d eventually figure out where we were and where the call should be directed, but it would slow down [the emergency response].”