The peaks and valleys of Bowen may make the island picturesque, but they make radio communication difficult.
Mt. Gardner’s position and other landscape obstacles have caused communication problems for municipal workers and emergency response.
“While we don’t have too many ‘dead spots’ on the island we do still have some small areas where radio communications can be challenging,” says Fire Chief Aaron Hanen.
A new $25,000 Union of BC Municipalities and B.C. government grant will fund an upgrade for a repeater – a piece of equipment that bolsters the communication signal – on Mt. Gardner. “The addition of a repeater atop Mt. Gardner will mitigate these issues and significantly improve Bowen Island’s ability to communicate with a multitude of organizations in the event of a local or regional disaster,” said a BIM press release.
There is a repeater at the Coast Guard Station on Radar Hill, said BIM’s emergency program coordinator Christie Stashyn, but it’s not quite central enough or high enough.
The new repeater also gives the capability of switching to digital communications at some point, said Stashyn. “Right now we’re on an analog system, which is getting antiquated.”
The digital radio communication system is clearer and more reliable, she said.
(The repeater is just for radio – it won’t help your cell signal – but amateur radio enthusiasts may notice a difference.)
BIM is probably looking at an early 2022 installation, said Stashyn. She also gave a shoutout to Bruce Steele who was a driving force in the project. “He’s done a lot of volunteer hours to try and enhance Bowen Island’s communication strategy.”