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South Island 9-1-1/Police Dispatch Centre marks first year of service

From Ladysmith to Sooke and from the Gulf Islands to Victoria, residents of central and southern Vancouver Island have now been receiving 9-1-1 and police dispatch services from the South Island 9-1-1/Police Dispatch Centre, located in Saanich, for one full year. Built and owned by the Capital Regional District (CRD) and operated by E-Comm, the South Island 9-1-1/Police Dispatch Centre officially opened on March 6, 2019.

The centre merges 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. Previously, 9-1-1 calls and police dispatch services in the region were managed by three call centres in Victoria, Langford and Saanich..

Since the centre opened, it has handled 134,452 9-1-1 calls from central and southern Vancouver Island.

The following videos chronicle each agency’s transition into the building, culminating in the grand opening event on March 6, 2019:

More than 1.8 million 9-1-1 calls answered in 2019

In 2019, we answered more than 1.8 million 9-1-1 calls in B.C.! 97% of those calls were answered in 5 seconds or less.

From those calls:

  • 67 per cent of calls were for police
  • 27 per cent of calls were for ambulance
  • 6 per cent of calls were for fire

Find out more about our 9-1-1 call statistics.

We also received a total of 23 Text with 9-1-1 (T9-1-1) calls in 2019. T9-1-1 is a specialized texting service available for people who are Deaf/Deaf-Blind, Hard-of Hearing or Speech Impaired (DHHSI) that allows registered users to communicate with 9-1-1 call-takers through text. Find out more about T9-1-1.

E-Comm releases 2019 list of top 10 9-1-1 headscratchers

E-Comm has released its annual top 10 list of calls that don’t belong on 9-1-1 and are reminding the public that 9-1-1 is not an information line or a customer service complaint line.

A complaint about a hotel parking spot that was too small, hair that wasn’t styled quite right and late night vacuuming topped this year’s list. For more calls, please read the full news release.

A tight squeeze, a bad hair-tease and vacuum grieve… no reason to call 9-1-1

Vancouver, B.C. – From a small parking spot to a bad haircut to late-night vacuuming, E-Comm continued to receive calls in 2019 that don’t belong on 9-1-1.

Since 2013, E-Comm has surveyed its call-taking staff each year for calls that tie up emergency lines and, each year, there’s no shortage of examples of calls they have handled that do not warrant a call to 9-1-1. Equally alarming for the organization this year was an emerging trend, where some callers know they aren’t in an emergency, but call 9-1-1 anyway seeking general information.

“Sometimes, it feels like people may have forgotten that the reason to call 9-1-1 is to get help in a life or death situation,” explains Chelsea Brent, the call taker who handled the number one call on this year’s list. “I take a lot of 9-1-1 calls where ‘I know this isn’t an emergency’ are the first words out of the caller’s mouth. But when I’m answering calls that aren’t an emergency, it means I’m not available for someone else who really does need critical help.”

Some of the general questions received by 9-1-1 call takers this year included asking for information about local water restrictions and a caller wondering why traffic was so bad. Checking with municipalities or DriveBC is the right source for these questions, not 9-1-1 or police non-emergency lines.

Here is E-Comm’s list of top 10 reasons not to call 9-1-1 in 2019

  1. To complain hotel parking spot was too small
  2. To complain hair salon didn’t style their hair properly
  3. To complain their neighbour was vacuuming late at night
  4. Because they were upset the coin laundry machine didn’t have enough water
  5. To enquire why traffic was so bad
  6. To request police bring a shovel to dig their car out of the snow in front of their house
  7. Because police are being ‘too loud’ responding to an emergency and requesting that they should come back in the morning
  8. To get information about water restrictions
  9. To report a broken ATM machine
  10. Because a gas station wouldn’t let them use the washroom

“Our staff must treat each call as an emergency until they are confident there isn’t one,” says Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm Corporate Communications manager. “Although these calls may seem absurd at the surface, our call-takers must take the time to investigate each one to make sure there isn’t a real emergency before directing them elsewhere. That takes time away from helping those in crisis.”

E-Comm is responsible for 99 per cent of the province’s 9-1-1 call volume and handled more than 1.6 million 9-1-1 calls in 2019. For more information about E-Comm, visit 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 Monday, December 30 between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. for interview opportunities with Chelsea Brent, E-Comm call taker who answered the number one call on our top ten list, and Jasmine Bradley, Corporate Communications Manager.

For interviews, you must confirm your attendance in advance by emailing corpcomm@ecomm911.ca  

Note: Government photo identification is required to enter the E-Comm building. Photos and video in the Emergency Communications Centre is permitted under specific conditions.

Additional Media Resources

  • Photo of E-Comm call taker Chelsea Brent

Audio file – a sample of 9-1-1 nuisance calls handled by call takers at E-Comm in 2019:

  • “You’re calling 9-1-1 to ask about traffic?”
  • “…to find out if there’s a water restriction?”
  • “Your neighbour is vacuuming?”
  • “Somebody won’t let you use their washroom?”
  • “You can’t move your vehicle…”
  • “There’s not enough water in the laundry machine…”
  • ”Your car doesn’t fit in the parking spot.”
  • “This is not a police issue and it’s certainly not a 9-1-1 call.”
  • “This is not a police matter in any way.”
  • “When you dial 9-1-1, it puts you to emergency services.”
  • “9-1-1 is for life or death emergencies only. So, I mean, if you can’t get your car out of the snow, then maybe take the bus or SkyTrain to wherever you’re going – OK?”

Media Contact
Kaila Butler
Senior Communications Specialist
604-626-9140

Always Know Your Location When Dialing 9-1-1

Despite public perception, current phone technology in Canada does not pinpoint your exact location or provide 9-1-1 call takers with specific information (such as apartment number or the floor of the building) if you call 9-1-1 from a cellphone. This is why “what is your location” is the first question our call taker asks you when you call.

In an effort to education the public about the importance of always knowing their location when dialing 9-1-1, E-Comm has launched a public education campaign which will run on the radio and across social media.

For more information, please read the full news release or take a look at the campaign materials.

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