Vancouver, B.C. – Heading into the Canada Day long weekend, E-Comm expects it to be a busy few days for emergency services.
Based on the forecasts of our data and workforce management team, at this point, we want to reassure the public that we believe there are enough staff scheduled to meet anticipated emergency call volumes. However, because E-Comm call takers answer both emergency and non-emergency calls for police, extended wait times on the non-emergency lines are expected throughout the weekend as our staff prioritize incoming 9-1-1 calls.
E-Comm has been very transparent about the fact that our organization is understaffed and underfunded. Within that context, the weekend staffing numbers are 10% less than the number of call takers we are budgeted for and 22% less on the dispatch side. But even if E-Comm had zero vacancies and we were staffed to budget, we would still not have enough people to meet the increasing call volumes we’re seeing for emergency and non-emergency lines, which are some of the highest we’ve ever experienced in E-Comm’s 23-years of service.
The contribution of our staff to public safety in B.C. cannot be overstated – they are truly the first first responders and play a critical role in emergency services. We are continually impressed by the dedication of our employees and are committed to their well-being.
Many of our employees work overtime which is how we can ensure minimum staffing levels are being met. Like many other organizations and public safety agencies, there have been times where E-Comm has found itself in a position where we needed to bring people in on ‘forced overtime’ in order to ensure we have enough people answering the 9-1-1 lines and dispatching first responders. This is a mechanism provided for in our collective agreement with CUPE Local 8911 and is used in extreme cases only.
Over the past four weeks this has occurred eight times, including for this weekend where we have had to schedule one employee on ‘forced overtime’. When this does happen, staff are compensated in accordance with the collective agreement.
That said, we recognize the impacts of regular overtime on our staff and continue to focus on recruiting new employees and working with our emergency service partners to ensure the organization is resourced and funded to meet increasing demands.
Where we can use the public’s help, is in knowing when to call 9-1-1, and when not to do so. To this end, last week, we launched our Help Us Help Campaign, to raise the public’s awareness and knowledge of what constitutes an emergency call, and what is a non-emergency call, thereby encouraging the public to use 9-1-1 responsibly.