GBA Meets with OPP: Advice on Emergency Response
GBA representatives met with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in Midland in March to discuss streamlining emergency response and how to report concerns about boating behaviour.GBA reps were: John McMullen, GBA President; Bob Duncanson GBA Executive Director; Andrew Hurlbut, GBA Chair Boating and Safety Committee and; Scott Sheard, Pointe au Baril Islanders’ Association Director.In attendance from the OPP were: Andrew Ferguson, Detachment Commander Southern Georgian Bay Detachment; Edward Medved, Commanding Officer Bracebridge Detachment; Mike Gordon, Detachment Commander West Parry Sound Detachment; Sgt Todd Selvage (Bracebridge); and Inspector Veronica Eaton (Orillia).
Emergencies Only – Dial 911 to reach the OPP.
Only to save a life, report a fire or report a crime in progress.
All Other Issues including Boater Behaviour – Call 1 888-310-1122 – NOT 911.
This line is available 24/7.
The OPP run two communication centres in the Georgian Bay area: Orillia serves the south end of the Bay; North Bay serves the north end. 911 callsare directed to the appropriate centre based on where the call comes from – even when using cellular phones. Some phone companies also enable users to dial *OPP as an option to 911.
When the communications centre receives a call they will coordinate the best way to respond to your emergency (ambulance, police boat, Coast Guard, fire service, etc). There is no need to make a separate call to the Coast Guard or others.
For water access only properties it is critical to provide as much detail to the 911 operator as possible. GPS coordinates are good*, as are the names of the nearest marina, named channels, islands landmarks, etc. In certain parts of Georgian Bay, the municipal address of the island is the primary location description for 911.
When a 911 operator is on the line he or she will stay on the line with the caller until a first responder reaches that caller. Callers should not hang up. Response time in cottage country is slower than in cities so people must be prepared for this. Cottagers are their own first responders. Cottages should be equipped with first aid provisions, cottagers should be current on CPR and first aid training, and associations should consider having community AED defibrillators and spinal boards.
Cottagers should develop and practice an evacuation plan in case of a fire or emergency. This could include neighbours especially if a night time evacuation to a marina is required.
OPP boats are well-equipped for medical emergencies. The District of Muskoka provided AED equipment to water craft that patrol their particular areas. This may not be the case in other cottage areas and will be part of GBA’s discussions with other municipalities.
Reporting Boater Behaviour
Reports should be made to the OPP at 1 888-310-1122, NOT 911. This line is available 24/7.
The OPP are prepared to follow up on reports of poor boater behaviour, including dangerous driving (speeding thorough slow zones, slaloming PWCs through inner channels, etc.), drinking while driving and even environmental or pollution offences. The OPP has zero tolerance for alcohol consumption while driving, speeding and lack of life jackets. Excessive engine noise is not a complaint that is easy for the OPP to deal with.
The more information a caller can provide to the OPP the better, such as exact location, time, colour/style/name/license number of boat(s) involved. Pictures are even better.
Police prefer complainants to go on the record when making a complaint but understand that circumstances arise where people prefer to remain anonymous. The OPP will honour such requests. If the complaint involves a criminal offence and you wish to remain anonymous, you can also call Crime Stoppers.
The OPP appreciates any help in communicating the above to cottagers, including through local cottager associations. It was suggested that GBA Member Associations provide the OPP with community directories where they exist.
* The OPP advised that different GPS protocols are in use. OPP boats use a specific GPS protocol that may differ from the GPS on hand-held devices. GBA plans to confirm which GPS protocol to use and will post it on www.georgianbay.ca.