By Alicia Bridges
Motorists or hitchhikers travelling the northern highways could register to have their safe passage monitored by “eyes in the sky” if a Gitxsan-run satellite service can get government support to expand its coverage.
BC SafetyLink is a new Gitxsan Development Corporation business which provides live safety monitoring from its Hazelton office.
Companies pay the service to monitor their workers, who can use their smartphones or GPS devices to check in at regular intervals.
If a worker fails to check in, the BC SafetyLink call centre follows a protocol of contacting delegated supervisors who can decide how to proceed.
The GDC wants to open up the service to the public so they can check in while travelling on Highway 16, which is also known as the Highway of Tears because of the high number of women who have disappeared or been murdered along it.
GDC president Rick Connors said the BC SafetyLink system does not need cellphone reception, making it easier for people to call for help in dead zones along the highway.
He said people who were driving alone or hitchhiking could register with the call centre to follow up with a family member or with emergency services if they did not check in before a certain time.
“We could have an app that we could give to anybody with a cellphone,” he said.
“A one button push means you are in trouble and we’ve got you, we track you, we pinpoint you.
“If there is an incident we know who it was and we send the police out, RCMP, whoever it is in the area.
“We’ve got all the assets, the eyes in the sky.”
Safety monitor centre coordinator Lynzee West is one of two employees currently working for the company.
She said the service could also be set up so people who were hitchhiking could log license plates or indicate if they were in danger.
“What they can actually do is enter into a hazard mode which will shorten their check-in times so it can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 15 minutes, someone will be looking for them,” she said.
Connors said the GDC, which conducts business on behalf of Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, needs government support to make the service available for the public.
He said the company was preparing a plan that it hopes the government will endorse.
“We want to put it together so that it is a plan that is going to be a bankable plan, that they can put their name on it, and they can say … the province of B.C. endorses the program,” said Connors.
“What better place to monitor it.”
Connors said the company had also bid for a WorkSafe B.C. contract to provide the service for workers across the province. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s office did not respond to this newspaper’s questions before the time of print.
Alicia Bridges is a reporter with The Interior News in Smithers, B.C.