Plan to upgrade emergency radio system good for northern Ontario, minister says

The Public Safety Radio Network is used by more than 38,000 responders

The Ontario government says it’s taking steps to replace the “crumbling” network frontline and first responders rely on during emergencies.

The Public Safety Radio Network is used by more than 38,000 responders, including police and correctional officers, paramedics and hospital staff, fire services and highway maintenance staff, according to the province.

Premier Doug Ford announced the modernization plan on Thursday, along with Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Michael Tibollo.

“We’re going to basically rebuild it using what’s called P25 technology,” Tibollo told CBC’s Up North.

“It’s an encrypted digital system that replaces the analogue system that quite literally is falling apart in the province.”

The plan includes rebuilding aging infrastructure, like telecommunications towers, antennae and other technology, and providing responders and dispatchers with state-of-the-art radio equipment.

Maintenance services to restore the network and repair equipment will also be provided for a period of 15 years.

Upgrade good for the north

Tibollo said the current 20 year old system fails daily, affecting northern communities in particular.

“A lot of the southern … municipalities have invested in P25 technology. The north has not, and that’s a situation we’ve taken serious and critical from the standpoint of the province,” he said.

Tibollo said he’s visited with responders on Manitoulin Island and heard first-hand from MPPS and emergency services about the problems with the current system.

“This network is critical to my ministry staff in the North,” Jeff Yurek, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, said in a media release.

“Much of their work is done well beyond cell towers — including our brave fire service members who need to stay connected with crews on the ground, as well as our conservation officers while patrolling remote areas.”

The new service is expected to be phased in by 2021, and the network will be fully operational by 2023.

Tibollo said the province will continue to monitor the current system to ensure it will still serve communities in the meantime.