Established in 1997 under the provincial Emergency Communications Corporations Act, E-Comm is owned by the municipalities and public safety agencies it serves. Operating from a purpose-built facility, E-Comm is recognized nationally as an industry leader whose defining mission is to help save lives, protect property, and to build partnerships that help create safer communities in British Columbia.
The concept of consolidating emergency communications began in the early 1990s, following a series of international disasters, including the earthquake in San Francisco. These incidents highlighted the importance of communications when disaster strikes. But it was an event that happened closer to home that really kicked things into high gear.
In spring of 1994, hockey fever captured British Columbia as the Vancouver Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup final. Sadly, the team lost in the seventh and deciding game. It was a night that would not only go down in history as disappointing for long-suffering hockey fans, but also as a night that forever changed the course of emergency communications in B.C.
As fans took to the streets to lament the team’s loss, so did many trouble makers. The Vancouver police were forced to call in the Crowd Control Unit and request back up from neighbouring RCMP detachments in an effort to disperse the out-of-control crowd. Unruly drunks put innocent bystanders in harm’s way and downtown businesses fast became easy prey for vandals and looters.
In the midst of the chaos, the Vancouver police radio system was unable to handle the amount of radio traffic and paramedics, firefighters and police found themselves in extreme danger because their radio systems were not compatible. In fact, emergency responders standing just metres apart, were forced to yell information to one another over the crowds.
Twelve hours later, as the damage was assessed and crews worked overtime to clean up the debris, emergency service providers knew it wasn’t just the downtown core that required re-building.
Benefits and Mandate
E-Comm, Emergency Communications for British Columbia Incorporated, is committed to providing effective and efficient emergency communication services in the interest of public safety and public service.
The main responsibilities of E-Comm are:
- Developing and implementing a tri-service emergency radio system
- Maintaining two post-disaster facilities
- 9-1-1 call centres
- Dispatch operations
We provide many benefits for the residents of the municipalities that participate in E-Comm. For example, emergency responders are able to communicate directly with one another because they are now sharing the same E-Comm radio system. If there is an incident in one of the municipalities that is an E-Comm partner, police, fire and ambulance crews are able to communicate directly with one another. If there should be a police pursuit that crosses jurisdictional boundaries, officers can coordinate their response with police in each of the cities involved because they too share the same radio system. The result is increased public and emergency personnel safety.
As a cost recovery organization, E-Comm is owned by its members. These include municipalities, police boards, provincial and federal government agencies.
Each member is allocated a share, either class A or class B, for participation in the radio system either now or in the future.
In order to establish such a unique organization, E-Comm was created under legislation known as the Emergency Communications Corporations Act.
Legally known as E-Comm, Emergency Communications for British Columbia Incorporated, the main features of the legislation are:
- Exempts the corporation from any inappropriate/inapplicable provisions of the BC Business Corporations Act
- Provides for the approval of the corporation’s members agreement by the attorney general
- Authorizes organizations to become members
- Permits the Municipal Financing Authority to borrow on behalf of the corporation
- Limits the liability of the corporation, its members, directors, and employees
- Requires members to pay rates assessed by the corporation
- Addresses transition around labour issues superannuation portability, the application of the successor provision of the Labour Code, the ability of employees who are likely to be affected to be included in a representation vote, and the ability of affected unions to form a new union for voting purposes
- Gives the corporation power to acquire and hold radio spectrum on behalf of emergency services and municipalities
- Add additional services by regulation if necessary
All elements of the legislation are considered to be in the best interests of all involved. The preceding information is a summary of the Emergency Communications Corporations Act, and is not a legal document.
The E-Comm building in the Lower Mainland is a purpose-built facility. The 60,000-square-foot reinforced concrete structure is designed to resist an earthquake and to operate self-sufficiently for up to 72 hours following a disaster.
In order to make the E-Comm building a post-disaster facility, we’ve paid special attention to the mechanical, electrical, structural and communication systems to ensure they are highly reliable, fault tolerant and resistant to hazard:
- Earthquake resistant
- Concrete structure
- Shatterproof glass
- Emergency water and food storage
In 2017, E-Comm signed agreements with police agencies on southern Vancouver Island and the Capital Regional District for the formation of a new consolidated South Island 9-1-1/Police Dispatch Centre. Fifteen police agencies transitioned their emergency call-taking and dispatch operations to the new facility in February 2019. The new facility officially opened on March 6, 2019. Visit the Capital Regional District website for more information.