For Immediate Release:
Emergency dispatchers and 9-1-1 call takers are the life line for our communities and their work has become all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, CUPE BC President Paul Faoro said today, noting the Province of British Columbia’s proclamation of Emergency Service Dispatchers and 9-1-1 Awareness Week (April 4-10, 2021).
“These workers provide such critical service for public safety, and they do it around the clock. They’re a key part of the emergency response network that helps save lives every day,” said Faoro. “The stresses they deal with are even greater during the pandemic, so we cannot thank them enough for their dedication and commitment.”
The Emergency Communications Professionals of BC, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 8911, provide critical services for 33 police agencies and 40 fire departments in British Columbia and are the first point of contact for 99 per cent of 9-1-1 calls in B.C. For this year’s Awareness Week, they are highlighting the important service provided by their nearly 600 members by sharing some of their stories of working during the pandemic.
“ESD and 9-1-1 Awareness Week is an important occasion to thank emergency communications professionals—who are always ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to handle whatever emergency comes in on the phone line,” says CUPE 8911 President Donald Grant. “This week we’re putting the spotlight on these first, first responders – the heroes who work behind the scenes to get you the help you need.”
Grant says that, over the past year, CUPE 8911 has had to overcome critical staffing shortages while rapidly implementing physical and technological solutions to make the workplace as safe as possible.
“These workers bear the increased psychological challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the public safe,” says Grant. “Their commitment is truly inspiring.”
To learn more about CUPE 8911 members’ contributions to public safety, follow the Emergency Communications Professionals of BC on Twitter (@911ECPBC), on Facebook and Instagram and check out the media below.
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9-1-1 Awareness Week Video
9-1-1 Awareness Week Spotlight - Tristin
Meet Tristin, a Central Dispatcher for Vancouver Police
Tristin works with calltakers and other dispatchers to make sure police officers have all of the information they need on high priority calls.
Most rewarding thing – knowing that I can be there to help someone on their worst day. Being the voice that can reassure them that help is on the way and being able to send them help when they need it the most is one of the best feelings.
What I want the public to know- The more information you have for us, the better we can help you. We need to ask the questions that we do to make sure our police officers are safe and to make sure you’re getting the help that you need.
How the pandemic has affected 911 – Mental health deterioration has been a big problem, not just the public, but our own. We have seen a rise in tougher calls as a lot of people are suffering from being isolated for so long. We work long hours and have been working extra shifts to help out during the shortages that have come from people being sick or in isolation.
My message to dispatchers/calltakers everywhere – Thanks to each and every one of you for coming into work everyday, especially during this past year. You all are an amazing group of people. Thank you for all you do.
9-1-1 Awareness Week Spotlight - Akash
Meet Akash, a 9-1-1 Operator and Police Call Taker
“Hi, my name is Akash and I am 9-1-1. I’m a 911 operator and police calltaker for many different cities across our beautiful province of BC. I’m also the Recording Secretary at our Union, Cupe Local 8911.
For me it’s an honor to be the voice on the line with you, guiding you through what may be some of the hardest and most challenging moments while first responders are on their way, until they arrive.
When your call comes in to 9-1-1, it’s triaged to a 9-1-1 operator who will help determine what type of service you need and where you need it to. Your call is then patched through to a calltaker like myself who will ask you more situationally specific questions.
We recognize that you may be under a great deal of stress when you call into 911 and we know. We know we ask you a lot of questions, but they’re not without their reasons. The answers and information that you give us helps us to keep the first responders safe and helps them to best serve you.
Throughout the last year we have faced a new set of challenges related to the pandemic, and the toll it’s had on mental health for all British Columbians. There’s been an increase in specific types of calls as well as in the work that we need to do to keep you safe.
Thank you all for coming together as a community to help protect each other and keep each other safe throughout this pandemic. At this time I just want to say thank you to all my fellow 911 operators and Emergency Service Dispatchers for the hard work you do 24/7, 365 days a year. Please take care of yourselves and keep yourselves safe during these trying times.”
9-1-1 Awareness Week Spotlight - Ryan
Meet Ryan, an Operations Data Analyst and former Police Call Taker
“My name is Ryan, and I have worked at E-Comm 9-1-1 for just over five years now. During my time with the organization, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a number of different capacities. For example, I first began as a student queue operator while still completing my undergraduate degree, I was then fortunate enough to become trained as a police call taker shortly thereafter, and most recently, I have taken a secondment to work as an operations data analyst.
The unfortunate reality is that many members of the public will inevitably have to call 9-1-1 for any myriad of reasons, and it’s the call takers and dispatchers on the other end of that line who are the calming voice every day during people’s worst days.
So, with respect to what makes me proud to work for 9-1-1, I can list a great number of things. But what it boils down to is the ability to make a positive difference in people’s lives. And to that end, I am just so proud of my colleagues, average people who show up every day, including during a global pandemic, to do extraordinary things, who collectively oversee the wellbeing of people they will never meet and fight tooth and nail not just for a better today but for a better tomorrow.
So, please join me in celebrating all the hard-working people in the sector during 9-1-1 awareness week.”