As COVID-19 restrictions ease, BC’s 911 dispatcher says it’s seeing a jump in call volumes with one of the busiest summers on record likely on the horizon.
E-Comm, responsible for answering 99% of the province’s 911 calls, including around Greater Victoria, is appealing to British Columbians to use 911 responsibly ahead of the anticipated rush.
Amid a year of unprecedented weather events, including a heat dome and atmospheric river, E-Comm says BC’s 911 volumes soared past 2 million in 2021, as the last quarter of the year saw call volumes up 22% year over year.
But 2022 is shaping up to be even busier, with E-Comm now predicting a further increase of 12% in emergency calls, the dispatch service said in a news release.
“We’re seeing some of the highest emergency call volumes we’ve experienced in our 23 years of service,” said E-Comm executive director Jasmine Bradley.
“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.”
In part, Bradley attributes increased call volumes to this being the first summer without COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, events and travel.
She also points to increased cell phone use, a growing and aging population, the illicit drug toxicity crisis, mental health challenges, and weather events like floods, fires and heat.
If E-Comm is busy, so too are first responders
If 911 phone lines are busy, police, fire and ambulance first responders are feeling the strain as well, according to E-Comm.
While it aims to answer 95% of 911 calls in five seconds or less, the dispatch service says not all calls that come through the emergency lines are for emergencies.
“If there is a serious medical emergency, we absolutely want you to call 911,” added BC Emergency Health Services paramedic specialist Brian Twaites.
“But 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.”
To ensure real emergencies requiring immediate assistance from first responders get the best response, E-Comm’s Help Us Help campaign offers five tips to reduce misdialed and non-urgent calls to 911.
Five Help Us Help tips include:
- Think before you call—if you answer yes to any, dial 911 immediately: Is someone’s health at risk? Is someone’s safety or property at risk right now? Is a crime in progress?
- Know your location, especially if you’re calling from a cell phone, so 911 call takers can direct first responders to find you quickly and easily
- Lock and store your cell phone when out for a jog, carrying it in your pocket or purse to help reduce pocket-dialed or misdialed 911 calls
- If you call 911 by mistake, don’t hang up and let the call taker know you’re safe
- Help 911 call takers and dispatchers, along with first responders, by providing the information they need
Find more information online here.