9-1-1 operators “stretched to the limit” during heat wave

VANCOUVER—Record high temperatures during the historic heat wave in B.C. have taken their toll on Lower Mainland 9-1-1 operators, who this past weekend were swamped by a record-breaking number of calls and stretched to the limit in their ability to answer them all, says the union representing workers at E-Comm Emergency Communications for BC.

“Between the heat wave, the province-wide restart, and a 9-1-1 operator staffing shortage, there simply aren’t enough of us to get to these calls as quickly as we need to,” said CUPE 8911 (Emergency Communications Professionals of BC) President Donald Grant.

“When you call 9-1-1, seconds count. Delays can lead to property damage, injuries, and even death. When you’re on hold we feel your frustration, pain and suffering. We are working as hard as we can to get to your call, but we are stretched to the limit.”

E-Comm 9-1-1 operators received close to 8,000 calls on June 26 and more than 7,300 calls on June 27—more than 55 per cent above the daily average in June. As of this morning, at one point there was a 47-minute hold time for police emergency lines and more than five-minute waits on 9-1-1 before connection with an operator.

In a video message, Grant urged members of the public who call 9-1-1 to stay on the line, know their location, and support 9-1-1 operators in their efforts to get callers the help they need.

“When you call 9-1-1, the voice you hear is a person like me or you who is answering calls as quickly as they can,” he said. “We’re the first people who answer your call and stay on the line with you until you get through to the service you need—police, fire, or ambulance—in your town or city.”

The Emergency Communications Professionals of BC (CUPE 8911) represent more than 500 9-1-1 operators, call takers, dispatchers, IT staff and support professionals employed by E-Comm. They are located in Vancouver, Burnaby and Saanich. For more information, visit www.ecpbc.ca.