Vancouver, B.C.—E-Comm, the emergency communications centre responsible for answering 99 percent of B.C.’s 9-1-1 calls, is appealing to British Columbians to Help Us Help, as part of a campaign to encourage the public to use 9-1-1 responsibly. E-Comm is anticipating one of the busiest summers on record for emergency services and first responders.
“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,” explains Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm executive director of Communications & Public Affairs. “We’re seeing some of the highest emergency call volumes we’ve experienced in our 23 years of service.”
In 2021, British Columbians dialed 9-1-1 more than 2 million times, with nine out of 10 of the busiest days for 9-1-1 emergency services being recorded in that year. In the last quarter of 2021, call volumes were up 22 per cent compared to the year prior.
2022 is shaping up to be even busier, with E-Comm predicting a further increase of 12 per cent in emergency calls this year.
Bradley attributes increased call volumes, in part, to this being the first summer without COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, events and travel, increased cellphone use, a growing and aging population, the illicit drug toxicity crisis, mental health challenges, and weather events like floods, fires and heat.
And if 9-1-1 is busy, so too are police, fire and ambulance first responders.
“With the end of COVID restrictions and the start of summer, Vancouver Police expect to see a surge of people coming to the city to enjoy our beaches, parks, shopping, and entertainment,” shares Vancouver Police Department’s Sergeant Steve Addison.” More people always bring more calls for police service, and we’ll continue to make public safety our top priority.”
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services is also preparing to see an increased demand in services over the coming months.
“VFRS is expecting another busy summer with high call volumes and fires,” says Matthew Trudeau, Captain of Public Information. “We remind people to ensure their smoke alarms are working, they use and charge lithium ion battery operated devices safely, and ensure smoking material is discarded properly.”
E-Comm’s service target is to answer 95 per cent of 9-1-1 calls in five seconds or less. However, 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 9-1-1,” says Brian Twaites, a paramedic specialist with BC Emergency Health Services. “But if you have a less-urgent health issue, you can call 8-1-1 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.”
The Help Us Help campaign offers five tips to help reduce misdialed and non-urgent calls to 9-1-1, so E-Comm and its public safety partners can best support people with real emergencies that require immediate assistance from first responders.
5 Tips to Help Us Help
- Think before you dial 9-1-1.
To help determine if immediate action is required by police, fire or ambulance services, think of the following questions. If you answer yes to any, dial 9-1-1 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 cellphone, so 9-1-1 call takers can direct first responders to find you quickly and easily.
- Lock and store your cellphone when out for a jog, carrying it in your pocket or purse. Never save 9-1-1 to your phone as a contact, and turn your device on airplane mode if children are playing with it. This can help reduce pocket-dialed and misdialed 9-1-1 calls.
- Don’t hang up. If you call 9-1-1 in error, please don’t hang up. When the call taker answers, let them know you dialed in error. This way, they won’t need to call you back to ensure you’re safe.
- Help us Help. Help 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers, along with first responders, by providing the information they need. They face high-stress situations every day while helping people in need. Emergency services personnel are doing their best. Listen carefully, speak clearly and try to remain calm. Remember that call takers need to provide accurate and specific information to the attending emergency responders, and while they’re asking questions a response is already underway.
- BC 211: For information and referrals to social, community and government services in British Columbia, call 2-1-1.
- City Services: Visit your local municipal website for all questions or concerns related to city bylaws including dumped garbage, parking-related complaints or concerns about traffic lights. In Vancouver, dial 3-1-1.
- HealthLink BC: For non-urgent health information and advice, and where to find health services in your community, call 8-1-1.
- BC Wildfire Service: To report wildfires that fall outside the jurisdiction of a local fire department, call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 from a cellphone. Call 9-1-1 if you are unsure about who to call – the call taker will refer you to the BC Wildfire Service if required.
- 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 5-1-1.
- BC Crisis Centre: For mental health support where there is no immediate risk to someone’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 9-1-1.
Vancouver Police Department
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services