Seven recommendations stemming from the emergency response after a fatal helicopter crash at the Region of Waterloo International Airport have been approved by councillors.

Flight instructor Tiffany Hanna was killed when the helicopter she was in with student Scott Puillandre crashed near the airport in November. Puillandre was injured in the crash.

A review of how 911 calls are handled was sparked after a reported communication breakdown during the emergency response to the crash.

On Tuesday, regional council members approved all of the key findings and recommendations in the report written by Larry Gravill, the former chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

The report identified emergency communications as a major concern and looks at the need for a centralized 911 dispatch to improve response times.

Gravill says "I think there were some updates that really could have been better passed along if everyone was working on the same platform."

But it is a contentious idea since right now paramedics, police and firefighters are in separate buildings and using different software.

Councillor Jim Wideman says "The fact that we've not been able to achieve a common dispatch mode is shameful when we know that it could shave off up to a minute of our general response times."

However, the ambulance dispatch is centralized in Cambridge and run by Ontario's Ministry of Health, which has so far been unwilling to join a common model.

Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig suggests inviting local MPPs involved.

"To sit around here and send letters is not going to do anything. I think we need to get the MPPs in here to sit down with them in a public forum and discuss this and say ‘Look, what are you going to do about it?'"

Another recommendation calls for a direct communication link between the airport and the Waterloo Regional Police Service's 911 dispatch.

Third on the list is training officials to deal with a crisis at the airport and updating the Region of Waterloo's emergency response plan.

John Hammer, managing director at the airport, says "We've been doing that in the past, probably not as much detail with all the fire departments, it's been more with Woolwich, but now we are going to involve Cambridge and Kitchener as well."

Other key recommendations include:

  • Strengthening joint emergency training between airport personnel, fire departments, the cities and townships.
  • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of airport fire personnel for both onsite and offsite responses to emergencies.
  • Creating addresses for all buildings located on the Region of Waterloo International airport property.

Regional council is determined that to be better prepared to handle the next airport emergency

A working group, led by Gravill, has been established to oversee the key recommendations.