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CREST telecoms look to find a post-seismic facility in Greater Victoria

The move will better protect equipment vital to its 50 emergency service clients across the CRD
Red arrow shows the existing warehouse that is home to a variety of specialized equipment used by the Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications (CREST). The service provider is looking for a new home that will protect the equipment in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. (Google Maps)

The Capital Regional District’s emergency telecommunications provider has put together a task force to find a post-seismic facility to better protect equipment vital to clients during natural disasters.

Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications Inc. (CREST) is the primary provider for communication tools, from radios to cell towers, for 50 first responder agencies across the CRD.

The “very specialized” equipment required to monitor and repair their infrastructure is currently housed in a modest Langford warehouse, said CREST general manager Gord Horth. That equipment includes a reserve of satellite radios and the software to remotely monitor more than 30 P25 transmission towers, which were installed across the region last year to fully lift CREST’s clients to digital over analog communication.

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In the fall strategic plan, the potential loss of specialized equipment and personnel housed in Langford was identified as their greatest risk, Horth said. Engineering firm Stantec conducted an independent review confirming as much. As a result, a task force of CREST board members has been created to look at options for a post-seismic facility.

One option is sharing space within an emergency service building, such as either of the new fire halls being built in Esquimalt and Victoria, or the slated expansion for the West Shore RCMP headquarters. Another is raising a new purpose-built facility to “meet our projected and future needs,” Horth said.

Either option will suit after considering price and location, he added.

The special nature of CREST’s equipment and the likelihood of natural disasters spell the company’s need for a protected facility. Two years ago, the telecoms company operationally recovered from a facility flood in two days, thanks to spare equipment which would otherwise take three to six months to order and replace.

“A number of components come from Japan … our microwave spares come from Israel,” Horth said. “There’s a pretty diverse supply chain on emergency equipment throughout the world. When you’re in a remote area like Vancouver Island, it’s really prudent to have spare (equipment) here instead of a warehouse in Chicago.”

Given that a natural disaster “will happen at some point” considering forest fire and seismic patterns, Horth said, an investment in a protected facility is a “prudent move so that we can be self-reliant.”

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