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MEDIA ADVISORY: Update on service disruption – March. 16, 2024

At approximately 6:00 am on Saturday, March 16, 2024, E-Comm was made aware of a service disruption that impacted several of its systems. This led to a temporary slow-down in processing of some emergency calls through 9-1-1.

E-Comm activated its back up protocols to ensure the continuity of its 9-1-1 services, which includes a secondary call-taking site and assistance from our partners at BCEHS.

E-Comm’s Technology Services team have been working diligently to restore affected systems and to assess the impact of the outage. The cause is believed to be a server malfunction as a result of overheating.

Phone services, including 9-1-1 and police non-emergency lines, were operating normally as of 11:00 am on March 16, 2024.

E-Comm’s Southern Island Centre Celebrates 5 Years of Service

Oliver Grüter-Andrew, President & CEO at ECVI opening

Today marks the fifth anniversary of E-Comm’s South Island 9-1-1/Police Dispatch Centre, which officially opened its doors on March 6, 2019, a milestone for the organization which has grown considerably throughout this time.

The centre, which is built and owned by the Capital Regional District and operated by E-Comm, provides 9-1-1 call-answer, police call-taking and dispatch services for the Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria police departments and 11 RCMP detachments in the central and southern Vancouver Island region.

Victoria Police Chief Constable Del Manak with E-Comm dispatcher

Currently, around 100 employees work from E-Comm’s South Island centre, handling more than 1.4 million calls over the last five years. Of these calls include some of the most dynamic and challenging files, such as the 2022 mass casualty shooting in Saanich, where E-Comm staff were recognized for their outstanding contributions and heroic actions.

Their professionalism and dedication have been instrumental in coordinating multi-agency incidents, in ensuring both public safety and the safety of our first responder partners.

From Ladysmith to Sooke and from the Gulf Islands to Victoria, E-Comm is deeply proud to partner with first responders in ensuring the continued safety of communities across Vancouver Island.

 

NEWS RELEASE: Police, fire, or ambulance – E-Comm achieves best 9-1-1 service levels in 5 years

Transformation initiatives spur positive momentum with more to come in 2024

E-Comm has released an update on the progress made to modernize and stabilize operations as part of a multi-year Transformation Plan.

2023 marked the first full year of a five-year plan, approved by E-Comm’s board in November 2022, to address long-standing challenges by providing dedicated funding, staff and capacity to implement needed improvements.

Despite an 11% increase to 9-1-1 calls in 2023, transformation initiatives are having an impact on improving service levels and answer times for both emergency and non-emergency calls.

“Our employees play a critical role in public safety as the lifeline for the public and first responders, and it is through their collective efforts that we’ve seen positive momentum from the changes that have been implemented to date,” says E-Comm’s Chief Transformation Officer Nancy Blair. “There’s more work to do and we’re committed to building on the progress made last year, in order to provide the best possible service to the public and our first responder partners while ensuring our employees are properly supported.”

Highlights from 2023:

  • 98% of 9-1-1 calls were answered in less than 5 seconds provincewide, despite an 11% increase in 9-1-1 calls for police, fire, or ambulance. This was the best 9-1-1 service level in 5 years.
  • On behalf of the police agencies it serves, E-Comm exceeded service level targets for police emergency calls in the Lower Mainland, answering 89% of police emergency calls within 10 seconds and met the target of 88% on Vancouver Island. E-Comm also exceeded its service level for fire emergency, answering 93% of fire emergency calls within 15 seconds. Note: 9-1-1 calls for ambulance go directly to BCEHS for file generation and dispatch.
  • 63% of police non-emergency calls for Lower Mainland police agencies E-Comm serves were answered within 3 minutes or less (up from 44% in 2022) with an average speed to answer of 4 minutes, down from almost 11 minutes in 2022. E-Comm met its service level of 80% for non-emergency police calls on Vancouver Island. Improvements to police non-emergency call-taking service levels remain a key priority for E-Comm in 2024.

Key improvements & ongoing efforts

  • New teams, tech and training for non-emergency calls

A dedicated non-emergency call taking team was established in 2023 to improve service to the communities we serve. E-Comm collaborated with our policing partners to simplify and consolidate over 1,500 standard operating procedures into under 100, which has streamlined training for our new call takers. A digital agent pilot with the Vancouver Police Department and the development of a new call handling system with call wait times and call back features, (coming this spring) are all part of ongoing efforts underway. Read more about non-emergency improvements.

  • Increased recruitment, retention and employee support

E-Comm hired over 170 employees in 2023 to help improve operations, address long-standing capacity and skills gaps, and get staffing closer to the level necessary to meet targeted service levels consistently. An expanded peer coaching program provides enhanced support to new call takers and has improved retention by better on-the-job mentoring. E-Comm also concluded a new collective bargaining agreement and compensation review, with improved benefits and mental health supports, improving our ability to attract and retain great people.

  • Next Generation 9-1-1 and enhanced cybersecurity

E-Comm is playing a lead role, working with the Province of BC, local governments and partner agencies to support the federally-mandated implementation of “Next Generation” 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) technology improvements. The program will move 9-1-1 voice calls to a new digital, IP-based network, the transition to which is to be completed by March 1, 2025. In March 2023, the Province of BC contributed $90 million to E-Comm, to support the initial implementation, which represents a significant avoided cost for our local government and agency partners. Additional technology improvements include: a new data resiliency centre, enhanced cybersecurity measures, and expanded data and analytics capabilities to guide and enhance operations and information sharing.

Read the full Transformation Plan Update here.

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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.

Meet Karen Hay: Hero behind the headset for over four decades

Karen Hay, VPD Communications Centre

Last week, staff gathered to celebrate Karen Hay, who has dedicated more than 45 years to emergency communications. This marks an incredible milestone not only for E-Comm, but for 9-1-1 in Vancouver.

Karen began her journey before 9-1-1 even existed. She was hired by Staff Sergeant Bill Marten of the Vancouver Police Department in 1977 to survey citizens using the phone book on whether a new 3-digit emergency number should be adopted in Vancouver.

Later that year, Karen joined the Vancouver Police Department as a civilian call taker, where operations looked a little different than they do today. When Karen first started in 1977, call takers had to hand-write physical cards and send them up conveyer belts to reach the dispatchers. Karen later went on to assist with the transition to the first Computer Aided Dispatch system, which is one of many ways 9-1-1 would evolve over the following four decades.

Karen was first seconded to E-Comm as a project training coordinator in 1996, where she helped to get the organization off the ground. When E-Comm opened its doors on June 8, 1999, Karen took one of the very first calls, becoming the first Civilian Central Dispatcher for the Vancouver Police Department.

Karen’s deep roots in 9-1-1 extend far beyond dispatch. Over the course of Karen’s career, she served as President for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), assisted in  emergency communications at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and designed training courses for the Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME BC). Karen has supported teams across the entire organization including Voice Records, where she currently serves today.

Inspector Derksen presents Karen Hay with plaque from the Vancouver Police Department

Beyond her extensive experience, historical knowledge and technical expertise, what sets Karen apart is her genuine passion for helping people, which she demonstrates in everything that she pursues.

Karen never fails to put a smile on the faces of her colleagues and it is clear that even after 45+ years, she continues to find joy and fulfilment in her work.

Thank you to Karen Hay for the tremendous contribution you have made to the development of 9-1-1, the role of E-Comm and the enhancement of public safety through emergency communications. Your dedication to public safety has benefited communities across British Columbia.

NEWS RELEASE: Concert directions, traffic lights and nose rings make list of top nuisance 9-1-1 calls in 2023

B.C.’s largest emergency communications centre issues reminder on what constitutes an emergency call amidst record breaking year for calls to 9-1-1

Whether you’re waiting on a traffic light, demanding directions home from the Drake concert, or concerned about your lost nose ring, general questions and complaints do not belong on 9-1-1.

E-Comm, which handles 99 per cent of B.C.’s 9-1-1 call volume, has released its tenth annual list of nuisance calls. And with an increase of 13 per cent in call volume to 9-1-1 in 2023, the reminder to keep lines clear for emergency situations only has never been more critical.

“No matter how absurd a call might be on the surface, we have to treat every 9-1-1 call as an emergency, until we can confidently determine otherwise,” explains Alaina Milicevic, police call taker at E-Comm. “Every second we spend fielding questions about AirBnB reservations or complaints about UberEats orders, is time that could otherwise be dedicated to helping someone in a life-threatening emergency situation. We can’t help you with consumer complaints on 9-1-1, but reaching out to an appropriate customer service agent, or filing a report with the Better Business Bureau might help resolve your issue.”

Nuisance calls are a preventable problem and E-Comm is encouraging British Columbians to do their part by keeping 9-1-1 lines free for emergencies where immediate response is required from police, fire or ambulance.

Top 10 nuisance calls of 2023

  1. To ask for directions home from the Drake concert
  2. The traffic light was taking too long to turn green
  3. They lost a nose ring down the shower drain
  4. Their AirBnB host cancelled their reservation
  5. Their UberEats order was taking too long
  6. A burger joint wouldn’t let them in before opening
  7. They couldn’t find their cell phone
  8. To complain about a pothole
  9. Their McDonalds order was taking too long
  10. The barber gave them a bad haircut

Tips on proper use of 9-1-1

9‑1‑1 is for police, fire or medical emergencies when immediate action is required: someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress.

  • Know your location at all times
  • Don’t program 9‑1‑1 into any phone
  • If you call 9‑1‑1 accidentally, stay on the line and let us know
  • Lock and store your cellphone carefully to prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls
  • Do not text or tweet 9-1-1
  • Call takers cannot transfer your non-emergency call from 9-1-1, visit nonemergency.ca for a list of alternate resources for reporting non-emergency matters

E-Comm has handled more than 2.1 million 9-1-1 calls so far in 2023. Learn more at ecomm911.ca

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Photo/Interview Opportunity

E-Comm invites the media to its Lower Mainland Emergency Communications Centre at 3301 East Pender Street on Friday December 29 from 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. for interview opportunities with a police call taker who can speak to their experience responding to nuisance 9-1-1 calls and the importance of protecting critical emergency resources.

Interviews must be confirmed in advance at [email protected]

Media contact
Kelly Furey
Media Relations Specialist
604-215-6248
[email protected]

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.

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