BC 911 operators bracing for phone lines to heat up this summer

Jun 27 2022, 6:09 pm

It’s the first summer without COVID-19 restrictions and that has 911 operators in BC preparing for their phone lines to blow up.

E-Comm is the province’s emergency communications centre. People there answer 99% of the 911 calls in the province, and now, they’re warning British Columbians that they’re expecting it to be “one of the busiest summers on record for emergency services and first responders.”

ā€œWeā€™re seeing some of the highest emergency call volumes weā€™ve experienced in our 23 years of service,” said E-Comm Executive Director of Communications & Public Affairs Jasmine Bradley in a release.

“Ahead of the traditionally busier summer months, E-Comm is concerned about the pattern of increasing call volumes and the demand and strain this will have on our staff and the first responders they support.”

 

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In BC, 911 was called more than 2 million times, and this year, E-Comm is predicting that calls will go up another 12% this year.

The increase in calls they’re seeing is partly because it’s our first summer without COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, events, and travel.

But also, 911 is getting called more often because of “a growing and aging population, the illicit drug toxicity crisis, mental health challenges, and weather events like floods, fires, and heat.”

How to help emergency services

ā€œIf there is a serious medical emergency, we absolutely want you to call 911,ā€ said Brian Twaites, a paramedic specialist with BC Emergency Health Services.

ā€œBut if you have a less-urgent health issue, you can call 811 and get connected with a nurse or other professional at HealthLinkBC. That way, our highly-trained emergency medical dispatch staff and paramedics will be available for people who need their services the most.ā€

E-Comm is encouraging British Columbians to take steps to help them ahead of a busy summer.

  1. Dial 911 when there’s a crime in progress or an immediate risk to health, safety, or property.
  2. Know your location when you call.
  3. Lock and store your cellphone to avoid accidental calls.
  4. Don’t hang up if you called in error.
  5. Help provide clear information quickly.

Resources in BC

Here are some additional resources that E-Comm is sharing with British Columbians:

  • BC 211: For information and referrals to social, community, and government services in British Columbia, call 211.
  • City of Vancouver: Concerns related to city bylaws including dumped garbage, parking-related complaints, or concerns about traffic lights. In Vancouver, dial 311.
  • HealthLink BC: For non-urgent medical questions or information, call 811.
  • DriveBC: For information about road conditions and closures, to help plan your driving route, or for other road infrastructure information, visit drivebc.ca or call 511.
  • BC Crisis Centre: For mental health support where there is no immediate risk to someoneā€™s safety, call 310-6789 (no area code needed). If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, but it is not an immediate risk call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE), or call your local crisis centre. If there is an immediate risk, call 911.
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