Minister of Communication and Works Julian Fraser On Tuesday, April 19 Communications and Works Minister Julian Fraser made his presentation to the House of Assembly where he announced the establishment of an Emergency Call Handling Centre. Below is his presentation.
Cabinet recently decided that there be established and operated under the direction of the BVI Fire and Rescue Services, a dedicated Emergency Call Handling Centre, along with an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System with medical oversight to be provided by the BVI Health Services Authority.
This centre will be the first of its kind in the Territory.
The current infrastructure that facilitates Emergency Call Handling and Emergency Medical Services, though well-intentioned, does not allow for seamless operations between agencies, in terms of accessibility, timeliness, coordination and the transfer of vital information during emergencies.
The agencies that presently provide such services are:
- Fire and Rescue Service, which operates a call handling service with a two-line phone system for simultaneous incoming calls, transfer of calls, and electronic recording of only the first call where a second call is connected.
- Police has a similar two-line phone setup for a basic function of receiving emergency calls from Fire and Rescue Service along with UHF radio communication.
- Health Services also has a two-line phone system situated at the Emergency Room at Peebles Hospital to receive emergency calls from Fire and Rescue Service.
- Department of Disaster Management’s infrastructure is mostly tailored to coordinate national emergency operations and includes VHF network capabilities for land and marine bases, satellite phone and landlines.
In an effort to keep pace with modernized delivery of emergency services that are on par with global best practices, the Ministry of Communications and Works has fully supported the need for a fire-based Emergency Call Handling Centre and an EMS System that will adequately address the needs of the Territory.
To this end, much work has been done by the BVI Fire and Rescue Services to prepare for the transition to full operations of such a dedicated centre.
These accomplishments include:
- The utilization of additional staff in call handling duties during emergency scenarios.
- Ongoing equipment upgrades in collaboration with the Telephone Services Management Unit.
- Installation of new telephone units.
- Retention of the services of an internationally renowned Consultant to carry out an assessment of the present EMS being done in the BVI.
- During the months of January and February this year, 20 staff members of the BVI Fire and Rescue Services successfully completed rigorous training and received their certification as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).
Continuous training of our officers of the BVI Fire and Rescue Services will be a critical component of the agency’s strategic and work plans as this initiative is fully rolled out.
System functionality, the use of effective numbering systems, the development of a proper legal framework for operation and public education must be at the core of the operation of any effective call handling and Emergency Medical Services System, and the BVI will be no different. Hence, steps will be undertaken to ensure that these areas are fully addressed.
The establishment of a BVI EMS Task Force along with a Board of Advisors to offer advice and direction for the evolution of Emergency Call Handling and Emergency Medical Services based on members’ expertise, is also seen as critical to the proper functioning of this system.
Other crucial components of this fire-based model of operation are the need to have ambulances located at strategic points in communities where fire stations are located, and an identified mode of EMS transport coverage on each island in the Territory that may have need to access such services.
Such logistical details and accompanying protocols will be fully outlined in the strategic plan for the institutionalization of the Emergency Call Handling Centre and EMS system.
To conclude, though some may argue that the implementation of a dedicated Emergency Call Handling Centre and EMS System is long overdue, it is also important to have this system properly designed in order to minimize implementation flaws.
To this end, the Ministry of Communications and Works feels confident in the capabilities of the BVI Fire and Rescue Service and other critical stakeholders to establish a network of emergency care that we can be all proud of as a Territory and anticipates its successful launch later this year.
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