Construction congestion slows emergency response times

The construction nightmares across the city are creating headaches for commuters everywhere. But, for Ottawa's emergency services it means a major tactical challenge.

Despite great effort, collaboration with the City of Ottawa and detours, response times are still being affected, though not drastically.

When major routes are clogged because of volume from the morning and afternoon rushes, police, fire, and paramedics already avoid them. During construction season some of the alternates are affected as well, especially when there are whole lanes closed down.

Ottawa Police say they're still meeting their targeted response times and it's not impacting public safety.

Still, Superintendent Uday Jaswal says they have to work very hard to achieve that.

"What we do try to do is message out to the officers of where there is the greatest impact so that they can plan routes that circumvent that to a great extent," he said.

Ambulances and fire trucks make use of the Transitway where they can. Dispatchers also remind the responders of where the problem areas are when they send them to a scene.

Ottawa Police also use their briefings at shift change to let drivers know about new closures and reductions and provide reminders about where officers will find some of the major problem areas.

Jaswal said it's absolutely crucial that the City planning department alert the dispatch call centre of all planned closures to allow them to work around them.

The service also makes use of the emergency preparedness plans they have for collisions and major incidents to help them get around the construction congestion.

Jaswal said many of the patrol officers are so familiar with their zones they know side streets and short cuts already and are able to navigate the issues and provide that insight to officers coming into the area on specific calls.

"Our members constantly amaze me, certainly from the perspective of the patrol director, to how they rise to the occasion every day, overcome many of the challenges that face them and deliver high quality policing services to the residents of Ottawa," said Jaswal.

The challenges are similar for paramedics, though in some cases it's more difficult since the vehicles they drive are far more difficult to manoeuvre.

All emergency responders want to remind drivers to stay alert for sirens and flashing lights and to do their best to move out of the way when they're approaching from either direction.

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