New RCMP Operational Communications Centre
DUSTINE RODIER
© 2021 FrontLine Security (Vol 16, No 1)

The Nova Scotia RCMP Operational Communications Centre, also known as the “H” Division OCC, is a medium to large 24/7 unit in which our employees provide critical Emergency 911 call-taking and police dispatching services for the Nova Scotia RCMP and partner agencies in the province. As the first point of contact in an emergency, the highly trained 911 police dispatchers play a critical role in public safety.

In 2020, the H Division OCC received approximately 250,000 calls for service, approximately 4,400 calls per week, with the call volume significantly increasing in the summer months. It is one of four Primary Service Answering Points (PSAPs) in Nova Scotia and only one of two RCMP responsible PSAPs in the country. 

As a PSAP, the H Division OCC is the first point of contact for incoming 911 calls. Calls are transferred to the agency of responsibility or, if the call is for RCMP jurisdiction, the OCC will maintain continuity of the call until its conclusion. This added responsibility requires further training and regular re-certification through our partners with Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office in addition to the RCMP National Core Training Standards, mandatory training and re-certification for Telecommunications Operators. 

Originally located in Truro, Nova Scotia for many years, the Nova Scotia RCMP officially opened its new, state-of-the-art OCC at RCMP Head­quarters in Dartmouth, on 24 February 2021. The decision to relocate the OCC to Dartmouth was based on extensive research and consultations with other emergency management providers in the province. 

To execute this major undertaking, several subject matter experts were selected to form the OCC Relocation Project Team – each highly skilled in their respective fields of operations, human resources, communications, technology, property management and finances.

The Team was mandated to execute the project with two priorities in mind: to maintain the RCMP’s ability to offer the highest possible standard of police and public safety; and to ensure employee wellness remained at the forefront throughout the entire process. 

An exceptional amount of planning and preparation was required to mitigate potential risks well in advance so the OCC could continue to serve the front line and citizens of the province seamlessly. 

“We gathered and incorporated technology and best practices from [many different emergency dispatch centres all across the country] into our new OCC,” explains OCC Commander, Glen Byrne. “The new centre enhances our existing abilities to provide an extremely high level of service to the residents of Nova Scotia.”

The Team managed priorities, quickly addressed any potential issues and communicated regularly with internal and external clients.  They collaborated closely with provincial/federal stakeholders, partner agencies and outside technical specialists throughout. In addition to preparing for present day demands, much of their focus was on future advances so that the Nova Scotia RCMP would be well suited for any upcoming changes to public safety communications and/or technology.  

The technology is Next Generation 911-compatible, and state-of-the-art situational boards surround the workspace to provide enhanced situational awareness to support operations across Nova Scotia.  Further, several layers of redundancy are built into all of the systems. Continuity plans include a backup location as well as portable equipment that would facilitate restart operations should both the primary and backup OCC be non-operational.

Supporting employees through the transition was an important consideration. The vast majority of the Project Team’s efforts went into pre-planning and mitigating potential risks so the relocation would go smoothly. Additional training and support from outside resources were utilized so that employees had access to any support services they’d need. The team focused on all aspects of employee health and wellness. 

The role of the 911 Police Dispatcher is both rewarding and demanding. As a result, 911 Police Dispatcher training is both very comprehensive and ongoing. Courses such as Road to Mental Readiness (mental health for first responders), fatigue management, critical incident stress management, and suicide awareness are key components of their training, with a focus on resilience and mental wellness for first responders. 

Mental stress is a common byproduct of dealing with crises every day. We are very fortunate to have strong support from our Divisional Wellness team. This includes a Peer-to-Peer Program and ongoing support from our Health Services team.  Should any dispatchers need time away for health reasons, we have an effective reintegration program for when they are ready to return to work. Recognizing that each employee and their needs are different, we are able to modify and adjust the phases of re-integration program to fully support each individual as they transition back into the workplace.

The H Division OCC actively recruits employees from a wide range of diverse backgrounds. It is incredibly important for our workforce to represent the communities we serve and, as a result, we put a great deal of effort into our hiring practices to attract potential employees. Since the announcement of our move to the Halifax Regional Municipality, we have seen an increase in the diversity of our applicants. Opportunities for us to hire from a much broader pool across our communities have allowed for an improved and even more inclusive culture, which has directly benefitted those we serve, our workplace and the organization as a whole.

The extremely high level of professionalism, skill and compassion in our team is a common theme at our OCC and speaks to the calibre of employees that we are so fortunate to have with us. Many members of our team have received prestigious awards including the 2020 OCC Commander of the Year, several awards for public service, and Commanding Officer’s Commendations.

Their dedication to police and public safety is apparent on a daily basis. The new space was designed to reflect the high level of commitment that our employees have to the service they provide to the citizens we serve. The new space is an efficient, state-of-the-art space that they can be proud to work in. Because of this, we made it a priority to include our employees in the planning of the space. 

Top quality ergonomic workstations with built-in features and enhanced workspace lighting that can be self-controlled to meet their individual needs, supports their comfort during their long shifts. There is plenty of natural light and multiple areas for employees to decompress after challenging calls, and a full working kitchen for employees to gather and share meals.  

Having the OCC located within RCMP Headquarters has opened many doors for our employees. They now have more opportunity for interaction with the rest of the Division, and can access all of the benefits the building has to offer, such as increased security, top quality cafeteria and gym facilities, and a much broader list of training opportunities from across the Division.  Since moving to the new space, our employees have expressed appreciation for the space’s modern design, the increased situational awareness and the beautiful décor touches that they played such a big part in including.

With the H Division OCC transition now complete, our team is preparing for Next Generation 911 and technology advancements for many years of service into the future.  

In addition to the OCC, we recently completed a brand new facility to support critical incidents across the province.  Further, we are also looking forward to completion of a new, modern training facility that will support hiring efforts and expansion for many years to come. 
The new Nova Scotia RCMP OCC enhances existing abilities to provide an extremely high level of service to the residents of Nova Scotia and reflects the exceptional work of our 911 Police Dispatchers and their exceptional commitment to the communities we serve. 

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Inspector Dustine Rodier was the OIC at the Operational Support & Communications Centre, H Division RCMP.

Watch a video about the new OCC: www.youtube.com/user/rcmpgrcnsne

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