The City of Kamloops is looking at a new bylaw to require radio repeaters in high-rise buildings as first responders face communications challenges, including an inability to converse within the buildings and to people on the outside.
A report headed to the city’s community services committee on Thursday afternoon (Aug. 11) states the proposed bylaw could require in-building radio repeaters in high-rise structures. It would be applicable to new construction or renovations to existing high-rise buildings.
According to the report, radio communication within the buildings and to parties on the outside (incident command, dispatch, etc.) is “hampered” and, at times, “rendered completely ineffective.”
“This is due to the inability for radio waves to penetrate into and out of the structures themselves, as well as between specific levels, depending on the materials used for construction,” the report states. “Communications are further complicated by limitations in the current radio infrastructure, Kamloops’ challenging topography and increased signal loss as these taller structure block the signal paths.”
Royal Inland Hospital’s new patient-care tower is apparently among buildings causing issues for first responders in Kamloops.
“In order for responders inside the building to communicate with incident command, a responder must stand outside to reach the KFR repeater and use one radio to communicate with the incident command and use another radio on an independent channel to communicate with interior crews,” the report states. “If emergent transmission or general operational communications on tactics are required, communications cannot be achieved between floors or back to dispatch.”
Kamloops Fire Rescue will speak to the committee on Thursday in order to gain direction on developing a bylaw, which would then go to council for discussion prior to implementation. KFR declined to speak with KTW until after that presentation.
Committee chair Coun. Dale Bass said the discussion speaks to the challenge of the building industry, with respect to building environmentally friendly buildings and fighting fires. She described as “ridiculous” the need for first responders to stand outside to communicate.
“We need them to be able to communicate,” she said.
Bass noted it is harder to fight fires in high-rise buildings and communications challenges further exacerbate the issue.
Tom Calne, the incoming president of the Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, told KTW homebuilders want to see a proper study done on existing residential buildings because he has not heard of issues until the RIH tower was constructed.
Calne said he has not heard of apartment buildings causing issues and suggested the city could upgrade its communications system. Ultimately, he said, health and safety comes first, noting homebuilders would co-operate with any new bylaw that comes into place. However, he added, it would result in added costs to build, which would ultimately be passed down to homeowners and impact housing affordability in an already challenging market.
The report notes challenges with modern construction to increase energy efficiency and states some of the infrastructure comes with a cost of between $4,000 and $25,000.
Calne cited the BC Step Code, electric vehicle rough-in requirements and development cost charges as further challenges in keeping the cost of a home down.
“Every time there’s a new tax or regulation, it will impact housing for sure — and the cost of it,” Calne said.