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Region’s emergency communications get boost with new public safety building in Langford

Region’s emergency communications get boost with new public safety building in Langford

CREST, the agency providing emergency communications equipment and infrastructure that connects police forces, fire departments and other emergency responders throughout the capital region, is starting site preparation for a new ­$20-million public safety building in Langford.

The one-acre site on City Gate Boulevard near Costco will have a one-storey building capable of surviving a major earthquake, will consolidate all CREST operations in one place and will improve service to users.

CREST general manager Gord Horth said the building will protect the CREST P25 network that allows responders to speak directly to each other, instead of through dispatchers, and cut the risk of safety communication interruptions in the event of large scale disasters such as earthquakes.

Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications, more commonly known as CREST, currently has three locations in Langford — a main office on West Shore Parkway, an operations centre on the top floor of the West Shore RCMP headquarters and warehouse space for radios and equipment.

The new 14,000-square-foot building brings everything together, said Horth, and strengthens emergency responders’ ability to operate safely and effectively to protect the public.

More than 50 emergency response and public service agencies rely on the CREST network 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Those agencies include 25 fire departments and six police agencies from Port Renfrew to Sidney and the Southern Gulf Islands. Users also include the B.C. Ambulance Service, B.C. Transit, B.C. Conservation Officers Service, security personnel at the B.C. legislature and University of Victoria and bylaw departments at CRD municipalities, among others.

In 2023, the CREST network handled more than 10-million individual transmissions — equal to one transmission every three seconds.

Formed in 2001 and operational since 2003, CREST completed a $24.5-million region-wide technology upgrade to a digital P25 network in 2020 that improved reliability and is now considered a North American standard for public safety, said Horth. The system is connected by a series of receiving towers throughout the region, most recently piggybacking its ­equipment on Rogers’ cell towers that brought service to the Port Renfrew area.

Esquimalt Coun. Tim Morrison, who chairs the CREST board of directors, said more than 3,000 front-line emergency responders rely on the CREST network for vital communications.

“It’s essential that our region’s public safety technology and infrastructure remains intact and operational every day — and especially in times of greatest need,” Morrison said Monday. “Having a dedicated public safety building for the capital region protects our investments, and sends a strong message of confidence to our first responders and the public that CREST is prepared and will be there in the event of a natural disaster.”

The City Gates site in Langford was selected for its proximity to main transportation routes. The property purchase price in 2021 was $1.8 million and the assessed value today is just over $3 million, according to CREST.

CREST said project financing has been secured with the Municipal Finance Authority at lower borrowing rates and cash-flow projections indicate that the project can be completed within a board-approved five-year financial plan without increasing user agency levies.

The agency’s analysis said the new public safety building will cost about $19.3 million. Construction project management was awarded to Durwest last year and project completion is anticipated in late 2025.

The design of the building includes the installation of a 47-metre-high monopole that will boost emergency communications throughout the West Shore area. Horth said there are 35 communications towers throughout the capital region, including similar-height monopoles located at Starlight Stadium in Langford, High Rock Park in Esquimalt and at the new View Royal Fire Department.

Langford Fire Rescue Chief Chris Aubrey said protecting the region’s public safety assets is essential to ensuring first responder agencies and personnel can deliver life-safety services during a major emergency or disaster event. “To that end, the CREST system is the foundation of our success,” he said. “Having our telecommunications infrastructure located in a purpose-built, post-disaster building is simply an emergency management best practice. This project is a strategic investment and will benefit the region and its residents for many years to come.”

CREST is playing host to a drop-in community information meeting to share plans for the new building on April 20 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, 829 McCallum Rd.

CREST starts new public safety building in Langford – Victoria Times Colonist

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