Mutualink News

Can technology prevent 911 delays?

WATERLOO REGION —In an emergency, when lives are at risk and seconds count, rescuers need to talk to each other quickly and effectively.

That didn’t happen after a helicopter crashed Nov. 28 at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. But an Elmira firm is selling technology it says might prevent further miscommunication.

It allows police, firefighters and paramedics to choose to talk to each other and share information in real time. Rescuers can link themselves through desktop computers, laptops or tablets even if they don’t have the same radios or dispatch systems.

"Communication is saving lives," said Marc Lamothe, sales manager for Inter-Op Canada of Montreal. He points to miscommunication after the helicopter crash.

"Using a system like ours, we would have been able to bridge that lack of communication and have everyone speaking," he said.

A Record investigation revealed the helicopter rescue went awry when 911 operators revealed the crash location to police but did not tell firefighters and paramedics, who are dispatched separately. The communication delay, confirmed at up to 12 minutes, left firefighters still searching for the crash after police reached the scene.

Pilot Tiffany Hanna died. Authorities say she could not have been saved. An injured flight student survived.

Regional council has responded by seeking to put up to four emergency dispatch systems under one roof. An alternate option could see dispatchers share technology at different sites. A funding plan is anticipated in 2013.

Elmira-based firm Xenium displayed technology called Mutualink at a Kitchener trade show Feb. 23. Lamothe, whose firm works with Xenium, estimates costs at under $30,000 per agency. “It’s a very, very affordable solution,” he said.

Larry Gravill, the retired Waterloo Regional Police chief who investigated the helicopter crash response, favours putting dispatchers under one roof and providing them with common technology that shares information automatically. He’s less sold on technology in which rescuers choose to share information.

“If it involves a conscious effort to link someone, then that’s something that can be forgotten or missed,” he said.

The firm says its technology is used in Toronto at Pearson airport, in Montreal by police and fire departments, and by more than 240 U.S. agencies.

Emergency dispatch is currently provided by three municipal governments and the province. Changes must clear governance, labour, technology and financial hurdles, operators say.


For More Information & Further Inquiry in Canada:

Marc Lamothe
Inter-Op Canada, Inc.

Phone: (514) 335-9937 x8
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it