Prepared by the Committee to Secure Emergency Communications Facilities in KNP
Submitted by Colleen Roberts
The lack of emergency communications facilities on highway #93 through Kootenay National Park (KNP) has been a safety issue for the travelling public for many years. This interprovincial highway is a major route for thousands from Alberta and Saskatchewan driving to/from BC for tourism and business. Many motorists are also from the Windermere Valley and use it to access Calgary and other parts of that Province. In addition, there is commercial truck traffic (mining, logging, fuel etc.).
Up until a few weeks ago, when accidents occurred, victims had to wait until Parks Canada personnel or a truck driver with a satellite radio stopped and called emergency services. Such delays can have serious consequences. Alternatively, passing motorists could call 911 once they reached cell phone range. Often, they did not know the accident’s location, how serious it was, and what (if any) emergency services were required. This resulted in confusion and inefficient use of RCMP/EMS/FIRE resources as they searched for an accident they may or may not need to respond.
To address this dangerous situation two Windermere residents; Tracy Litchfield and Colleen Roberts, formed the Committee to Secure Emergency Communications Facilities in KNP. In 2017, meetings were held with Parks Canada to discuss the issue and possible solutions. The Committee was advised cell phones could not be installed in the park as the service providers stated it was not economically feasible due to a lack of power and high infrastructure costs. Focus then turned to finding alternative emergency communications facilities and improving public awareness of the situation.
At the Committee’s urging, Parks Canada installed signage at Kootenay Crossing notifying the travelling public there was an Emergency Radio Call Box. New signage was also installed at the entrances to KNP informing visitors of the lack of cell service along highway 93 in KNP. Additionally, mileage markers were installed.
In 2021, the Kicking Horse Canyon (KHC) Phase 4 Project on the TransCanada (east of Golden) led to the rerouting of all its traffic onto highway #93 through KNP during off peak periods. This escalated the need for emergency communications facilities and the Committee once again expressed our concerns. Subsequently in February 2021, a commitment was made that Parks Canada would install 4 permanent. Emergency Satellite Phones along highway #93 in KNP and provide location signage.
This was a joint project between Parks Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) with the $80,00 cost split equally. The Emergency Satellite Phones are at the following locations:
Marble Canyon Day Use Area https://goo.gl/maps/gijSi28eKXVjv1Gw9
Simpson River Trailhead https://goo.gl/maps/fktW6MApy8qT5vN3A
Kootenay Crossing Operations Centre https://goo.gl/maps/pU2ZdY4VENfnhg7HA
Kootenay River Day Use Area https://goo.gl/maps/WVPbUFTuHK6MBa8ZA
The Committee is very grateful Emergency Satellite Phones have been installed that provide 24/7 emergency dispatch services (from Banff). With their installation, motorists will never be more that 15 minutes by car from a satellite phone which greatly enhances the safety of the travelling public along highway #93 in KNP.