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Investigation into May 5th 9-1-1 service disruption now complete

May 12, 12:00 p.m. – An investigation conducted into the 9-1-1 service disruption that impacted callers within the Central and Southern Interior for a number of hours on May 5 is now complete. This investigation has shown that the cause of the disruption was an equipment failure on a piece of core technology within the TELUS network that allows 9-1-1 callers to be routed to the E-Comm emergency communications centre for call-answer.

TELUS has confirmed that this issue has been resolved and all system redundancy has been fully restored and tested.

When E-Comm was first made aware of the issue at approximately 2:30 p.m. on May 5, the emergency communications centre immediately engaged TELUS – the 9-1-1 network infrastructure provider for British Columbia. TELUS technicians began troubleshooting the issue with E-Comm technology staff, and service was restored on a back-up system at approximately 6:00 p.m. that same day.

Impacted areas included the Regional Districts of the Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, Okanagan-Similkameen, Thompson-Nicola, Columbia-Shuswap, Squamish-Lillooet (North), Central Kootenay, East Kootenay and Kootenay-Boundary. During the outage, no other areas of the province were impacted.

The priority for E-Comm during this time was to ensure a workaround was available for people needing immediate assistance from police, fire and ambulance. E-Comm’s Operations team made arrangements with the RCMP to have calls answered via local police non-emergency lines, and the organization took steps via media and social media to direct people to call the ten-digit non-emergency lines if they had an emergency for which immediate action was required.

As of May 10, just before 12:30 p.m., TELUS switched the 9-1-1 service back to the primary system with no interruptions reported.


May 5, 7:45 p.m. – E-Comm is confirming that 9-1-1 calls for the Central and Southern Interior are once again coming through to the emergency communications centre.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. on May 5, E-Comm was made aware of a 9-1-1 system disruption that impacted callers in the Regional Districts of the Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, Okanagan-Similkameen, Thompson-Nicola, Columbia-Shuswap, Squamish-Lillooet (North), Central Kootenay, East Kootenay and Kootenay-Boundary. During this time, callers were directed to call the police non-emergency lines to receive help from police, fire or ambulance. No other regions were impacted by this service outage.

The cause of the outage is currently under investigation with TELUS technicians continuing to work through the night. Further details will be provided in the coming days.


May 5, 4:00 p.m. – A 9-1-1 service disruption is currently impacting callers within the Central and Southern Interior areas. At this time, 9-1-1 service is not functioning and the cause of the disruption is unknown. Technicians are working with TELUS to determine the root cause and restore service as soon as possible.

Until further notice, E-Comm is advising the public in the Central and Southern Interior to call their local 10-digit police non-emergency line if they have an emergency for which immediate action is required: someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress. Callers in need of urgent medical care or fire response should dial the police non-emergency number and relay this to the call taker.

All local non-emergency numbers can be found at: nonemergency.ca.

To keep non-emergency lines free for emergency callers, residents of the Central and Southern Interior are asked not to call with non-urgent matters at this time. Non-emergency reports can still be made through online reporting at nonemergency.ca.

9-1-1 service is functioning normally for all other areas of the province.

Technical issues during planned evacuation exercise

On Sunday, April 24, E-Comm experienced intermittent technical issues which appear to have had an impact on some callers’ ability to contact 9-1-1.

These technological issues occurred during a planned evacuation exercise, which was scheduled as part of the organization’s preventative maintenance work and routine redundancy planning. During this time, E-Comm call-taking and dispatch operations moved to a back-up site to execute and stress-test evacuation procedures and systems, while allowing for critical technical maintenance and upgrades to take place at its emergency communications centres.

The intermittent technical issues experienced on April 24 were unusual compared to previous evacuations, and E-Comm worked diligently to ensure there was as little impact to incoming calls as possible. The organization’s top priority is to now identify the root cause(s) of these challenges, and E-Comm is working closely with its core technology partners to conduct a full investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the results and key findings will be made public.

All 9-1-1 services are currently functioning normally across the province. Any British Columbian experiencing an emergency situation should dial 9-1-1 as usual to get the urgent help they require.


Tony Gilligan, Vice-President of Technology Services
E-Comm 9-1-1

 

Pledging to protect 9-1-1

Each and every one of us has an important role to play in keeping our loved ones safe. We want access to help from first responders in an emergency—when we need them the most—and for most people, their first contact with emergency response teams is through dialing 9-1-1. That’s why protecting 9-1-1 resources is a shared responsibility.

As part of Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week, running from April 10-16 as proclaimed by the Province of British Columbia, E-Comm is challenging British Columbians to take the 9-1-1 Pledge and show their commitment to using 9-1-1 responsibly.

By taking the 9-1-1 Pledge and committing to making the right call, knowing your location, and avoiding accidental calls, you help ensure critical emergency resources are available for people who need them most.

Think about who you are pledging to protect—whether it’s your parents, your friends, your teammates, your siblings or your students—we all have an important role to play in keeping our communities safe.

Take the 9-1-1 Pledge today: www.9-1-1pledge.ca. Together, we can help keep British Columbia safe.

Floods, fires, extreme heat and the pandemic did not deter nuisance calls to 9-1-1 in 2021

Vancouver, B.C., January 7, 2022— Nuisance calls to 9-1-1 continued to divert the precious time of B.C.’s emergency call takers during E-Comm’s busiest year in its 22-year history. The company received more than 1.9 million 9-1-1 calls in 2021, with many of the busiest days for 9-1-1 in E-Comm’s existence having occurred last year.

Despite three provincial states of emergency, the ongoing pandemic and high demand for police, fire and ambulance services, E-Comm call takers continued to field non-urgent calls on 9-1-1 lines. Familiar consumer complaints and general questions about COVID-19 put a strain on emergency call-taking as E-Comm dealt with record-setting influxes of calls from people experiencing real life or death emergencies.

“Our staff worked tirelessly throughout the heat dome, wildfires and flooding emergencies to support our first responder partners and get help to those who needed it as quickly as possible. It was disheartening to learn that we continued to receive 9-1-1 calls from people looking for information or trying to make general service complaints when so many communities were experiencing critical emergency situations,” says Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm’s executive director of communications. “Our call takers are trained to treat every call that comes through as an emergency, until they can determine otherwise. Every second that they spend speaking with someone who is upset about a mixed up coffee order or wanting to report a messy roommate, is time they could have been helping someone in a life-threatening situation.”

E-Comm, which handles 99 per cent of B.C.’s 9-1-1 call volume at its two emergency communications centres, has once again released its annual top 10 list of calls that don’t belong on 9-1-1. Despite ongoing efforts to draw the public’s attention to the appropriate resources to contact for consumer complaints, general information, directions or to check the time, many of the calls found on the 2021 list are repeat offenders. By sharing this list, E-Comm hopes to remind people that every time someone calls 9-1-1 about a non-urgent matter, they put the lives of other British Columbians at risk.

Top ten nuisance calls of 2021

  1. The barista mixed up their coffee order
  2. A pedestrian was splashed on the sidewalk
  3. Requesting a COVID test
  4. Enquiring about becoming a 9-1-1 call taker
  5. Wanting to know where they could vote during the federal election
  6. Looking for weather updates
  7. Asking for directions
  8. Wondering why the bus wasn’t coming
  9. Enquiring about COVID restrictions
  10. Reporting a messy roommate

“At a time when demand for emergency services is higher than it ever has been, it is extremely concerning that people continue to misuse 9-1-1 lines,” explains Bradley. “9-1-1 is the first point of contact for someone experiencing a life or death emergency, it is critical these lines are free from non-urgent situations so our call takers can get people the help they need, as quickly as possible.”

To help the public make the right call and keep 9-1-1 lines free for real emergencies, examples of emergency situations that should be reported through 9-1-1 and a comprehensive list of alternative resources that are more appropriate for non-police matters are available on E-Comm’s website.

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Interview Opportunity

Jasmine Bradley, executive director of communications at E-Comm, will be available for interviews on Friday, January 7 between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, E-Comm will not be inviting media inside its Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island Emergency Communications Centres. Interviews may be facilitated by phone or via Zoom.

Broadcast media: please use 2021 b-roll assets found here.

Photographs can be found here.

Media contact
Kelly Furey
Communications Specialist
604-215-6248
media@ecomm911.ca

About E-Comm
E-Comm is the first point of contact for 9-1-1 callers in 25 regional districts in British Columbia and provides dispatch services for more than 70 police agencies and fire departments across the province. E‐Comm also owns and operates the largest multi‐jurisdictional, tri‐service, wide‐area radio network in the province used by police, fire and ambulance personnel throughout Metro Vancouver and parts of the Fraser Valley.

New call transfer process aims to address strains on British Columbia’s 9-1-1 system

December 1, 2021, Vancouver, B.C.—Effective today, E-Comm is implementing a process change that will help free up 9-1-1 call takers so they can answer and handle incoming emergency calls more quickly. The new process will allow E-Comm call takers to disconnect from callers waiting on the line for the ambulance service, making them available to answer other 9-1-1 calls faster – not just for ambulance, but also for urgent police and fire calls which combined make up 70 percent of all 9-1-1 calls.

When an individual dials 9-1-1, an E-Comm call taker is the first point of contact. The call taker immediately transfers the caller to the requested police agency, fire department or, when an ambulance is needed, to BCEHS. The established process requires the E-Comm call taker to wait on the line with the caller until they have been connected to the requested emergency service agency. Under normal circumstances, this transfer time averages 45 seconds, but due to higher call volumes and increased demands on the ambulance service, it is taking much longer for callers to be connected to an available BCEHS call taker.

“The extended wait times are continuing to result in significant delays for British Columbians calling
9-1-1, which is also difficult for our call takers who are being tied up and are therefore helpless to assist others,” explains Oliver Grüter-Andrew, President and CEO of E-Comm. “This new process puts the safety of all British Columbians first – and we believe this change will take some pressure off the emergency communications system that will allow our staff to potentially help save more lives.”

Leading up to today’s announcement, E-Comm’s leadership team has been working closely with BCEHS to help resolve call-transfer delays. BCEHS and E-Comm have implemented measures to separate potentially life-threatening calls from less-urgent emergencies, among other process changes to better manage calls. As well, BCEHS is adding new positions in their dispatch centres and are confident the boost in their staffing will help to meet the increased demand. Both organizations are continuing to carefully monitor call-answer times and make service adjustments, as required.

However, due to the extraordinary strain on emergency services and the need to increase capacity within the 9-1-1 system to ensure calls are answered quickly, E-Comm has introduced this new process with the full support of BCEHS.

“We are now at the point where new measures are required to ensure our staff are able to answer 9-1-1 calls as quickly as possible,” adds Grüter-Andrew. “Our call takers are not medically trained, nor are they authorized to provide medical advice to callers waiting on the line for the ambulance service, so freeing them up to answer other emergency calls means we are able to help more people.”

As part of this new process, callers will be advised that they are in the queue for ambulance and that the 9-1-1 call taker needs to disconnect so they can answer other incoming calls. It is important to understand that this change will not have any impact on the availability of BCEHS call takers or ambulance response times.

E-Comm and BCEHS leadership will be carefully evaluating this call transfer process to ensure 9-1-1 services are able to be delivered more quickly and effectively. This process is temporary to ensure 9-1-1 service level targets are consistently being met and both organizations will revisit the need for this measure on a monthly basis.

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