RCMP Keeping Critical Equipment Running During Wildfire Crisis
Prince George, B.C. – While wildfires have destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest, burned homes and threatened communities, RCMP radio techs have been working hard to ensure critical equipment continues to run.
RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Janelle Shoihet says they’ve been focused on protecting approximately 500 radio repeater sites from ceasing around the province.
“The RCMP polices most of BC’s landmass, including very remote communities and many areas that don’t have cell coverage,” she says. “In order to protect the public and police officers, the radio repeater sites relay transmissions from dispatchers to the radio units in the cars and carried by police officers.
“Fires have burned through or around at least a few repeater sites so far, but none of the RCMP repeaters have gone down.”
Sgt. James Reader, currently working as a liaison between the BC RCMP’s fires management team and the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre’s Critical Infrastructure Team, says RCMP staff have to endure some extreme weather conditions to get the job done.
“Accessing mountain-top sites via helicopter in the winter, hanging off towers to get to the repeaters. We’ve also equipped our staff to spend the night if they need to in all cases, including during the wildfires.”
He says one repeater escaped damage during one of the province’s most notorious blazes – the Elephant Hill fire.
“The radio technicians brought the risk to an RCMP repeater to the attention of the BC Wildfire Service. As a result, orange retardant was dumped on the site in two different passes to help protect important radio equipment.”
Reader says a portable repeater was also used during the crisis in the Lone Butte area, and set up by technicians to augment radio services in that area.
“Without these repeaters, we’d be forced to rely on cell phones which of course don’t have service available in many areas. Additionally, on a cell can only call one person at a time – with the radios, multiple police officers can listen and provide support and respond if needed.”