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.

12 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:

There are 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 will be able to communicate directly with one another. If there should be a police pursuit that crosses jurisdictional boundaries, officers will be able to 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 new 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.

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