No.046, Winter 2015

80% of British Columbia’s 9-1-1 calls now flow through E-Comm

Stakeholdes watch the official cutover of 9-1-1 call-answer services to E-Comm
(R-L) Retired Chair Robert Hobson, former RDCO Police Services Manager Cary Berger and CAO Brian Reardon watch the official cutover of 9-1-1 call-answer services to E-Comm November 18, 2014.

On November 18, 9-1-1 call-answer service for the Central and Southern Interiors successfully transitioned to E-Comm, making the emergency communications centre the first point of contact for 80% of B.C.’s incoming 9-1-1 calls. The changeover occurred seamlessly at 1033hrs, with the first 9-1-1 call from within the new service area answered just two minutes later. The 9-1-1 call was placed from Lumby and transferred to ambulance dispatchers (BC Emergency Health Services) in Kamloops.

Immediately following the transition, former Central Okanagan Regional District (RDCO) Chair Robert Hobson commented on the importance of 9-1-1 service remaining effective and efficient for local communities. “As significant changes in technology continue to warrant new investments in communications equipment, a shared costing model like we have through our partnership with E-Comm, allows for economies-of-scale and the ability to increase operational effectiveness,” he added.

“A shared costing model like we have through our partnership with E-Comm, allows for economies-of-scale and the ability to increase operational effectiveness.” 

Robert Hobson,
RDCO Board Chair (Retired)

Joined by RDCO CAO Brian Reardon and other dignitaries at the November 18 cutover, Hobson told E-Comm staff following the transition that he knows they will serve the nine regional districts within the Central and Southern Interiors extremely well. “We are very happy to have this partnership with E-Comm and we know you are going to do a great job,” complimented Hobson. “It’s important that 9-1-1 work effectively for our public and I am confident it will do that and you will continue to improve the service as technology changes in the future.”

Reardon echoed those comments indicating the partnership is all about safety for the community and service reliability. “People should know that when they dial 9-1-1, they can expect a prompt, professional, courteous response and I know that E-Comm will provide this level of service,” Reardon added.

Robert Hobson gets firsthand look at how incoming 9-1-1 calls are handled.
Robert Hobson gets firsthand look at how incoming 9-1-1 calls are handled.

Welcome North Island 9-1-1

Just four weeks earlier, the North Island 9-1-1 Corporation (NI9-1-1) transitioned its 9-1-1 call-answer services to E-Comm. The changeover occurred at 0943hrs October 21 with the first 9-1-1 call received at 1015hrs from Campbell River. The call was transferred to Courtenay RCMP dispatch.

Former NI9-1-1 President Jon Ambler and CAO Debra Oakman were onsite for the transition and Ambler shared his thoughts about the organization’s new partnership with E-Comm. “As a past member of the Air Force, I respect the regime of this transition, the attention to detail and professionalism here at E-Comm and that gives me a tremendous amount of confidence moving forward,” Ambler commented.

“I respect the regime of this transition, the attention to detail and professionalism here
at E-Comm.” 

Jon Ambler,
Former NI9-1-1President

Between the two transitions, 15 regional districts joined E-Comm with a combined annual call volume of 293,000* calls per year. The new partnerships consist of a combined service area of 330,000 square kilometres.

Preparations for the transitions began months prior. More than 280 combined hours of training were dedicated to familiarizing E-Comm staff with the geography and special attributes of the regional districts, including commonplace names. A comprehensive pre-transition test call schedule was also developed, in which hundreds of calls were made from both cellular and landline phones originating from a variety of locations across each of the transitioning regional districts.

Former NI9-1-1 President Jon Ambler and E-Comm CEO David Guscott
(L-R) Former NI9-1-1 President Jon Ambler and E-Comm CEO David Guscott following the October 21 transition of North Island 9-1-1 services to E-Comm.

“Transitions such as these take a great deal of effort by many individuals and organizations,” explained David Guscott, E-Comm president and CEO. “9-1-1 is a lifeline which is why thorough preparation was a top priority for E-Comm, the regional districts, the RCMP and our partners at TELUS.”

In all, a total of 19 new regional districts transitioned 9-1-1 Public-Safety Answer Point (PSAP) services to E-Comm in 2014, all of which occurred during a six-week period. Earlier in the fall the Regional Districts of Fraser-Fort George, Cariboo, Kitimat-Stikine and Bulkley-Nechako officially switched services to E-Comm.

“We’re proud to share our large team of experienced 9-1-1 staff, our technology and purpose-built facility with our new partners and the residents of these regional districts,” Guscott added.

“9-1-1 is a lifeline, which is why thorough preparation was our top priority.” 

David Guscott,
E-Comm President and CEO

* Central/Southern Interiors: 230,000 calls/ Northern Vancouver Island: 63,000


CEO Update

David Guscott, President and CEO

In recognition of our growing role in public-safety communications outside of our original service footprint, E-Comm’s legal name changed to Emergency Communications for British Columbia Incorporated December 1, 2014. Removing the geographic descriptor “southwest” reflects the scope of technical and other public-safety support we are now providing on a province-wide scale including the recent addition of our new 9-1-1 Public-Safety Answer Point partners in the Northern, Southern and Central Interiors and Northern Vancouver Island. Our name change was approved by shareholders at our 2014 Annual General Meeting and final approval was received by Attorney General Suzanne Anton and the B.C. Registrar of Companies in the fall.

The name change is in direct alignment with our strategic plan, Vision2020, which was developed in part to expand our public-safety partnerships in support of what we consider the true benefits of integration: shared staffing, technology and infrastructure to increase operational effectiveness to the benefit of public and responder safety.

In addition to transitioning 9-1-1 service for 19 regional districts, the final three months of 2014 were also busy with other strategic initiatives including completing a rigorous three-stage procurement process for the selection of an infrastructure equipment provider for the planned replacement of the radio system used throughout Metro Vancouver and parts of the Fraser Valley. A contract with Motorola Solutions Canada was signed at the end of 2014 and work is well underway to commence a pilot project in mid-2015. It is anticipated the new radio system will be fully rolled out by the end of 2017. More information on the status of the Next Generation Radio Program will be published in our next edition of e-communiqué.

The fall also saw the launch of E-Comm’s second public education campaign of the year. Aimed at increasing awareness on the difference between emergency and non-emergency calls, the five-week campaign introduced a new URL—nonemergency.ca—along with a 20-second video and online animated ads. The core message “don’t let non-emergencies compete with real onesillustrates the importance of keeping 9-1-1 lifelines free for real emergencies. The video topped 171,000 views and the total estimated reach from all elements of the campaign is reported as more than 3.7 million people. Thank you to our partners for their support of the campaign through their social media channels.

2015 will likely prove to be another important year for public-safety initiatives. And with the support of our staff, partners and Board of Directors, I am confident more advances will be realized.


EComm trainer recognized with national award

E-Comm trainer recognized with national award
(L) Intrado’s Joe Hernandez and APCO President Gavin Hayes (R) present E-Comm’s Samantha Bruehler with APCO’s “Trainer of the Year” award.

The Canadian Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) awarded E-Comm trainer Samantha Bruehler with its Trainer of the Year award at its November conference in Vancouver. Bruehler was recognized at a special ceremony for her leadership role during 2013’s integration of two police agencies (New Westminster Police and Burnaby RCMP) into E-Comm’s communications centre. The Trainer of the Year award is a newly established category to recognize those who played an instrumental role in the success of a training program within a public-safety communications agency.

Bruehler, who has been a trainer and police dispatcher for close to 13 years, played an active role in developing the training materials for the two police agency transitions as well as mentoring other trainers and staff. More than 23,000 hours of preparation and planning were undertaken by E-Comm’s training team in anticipation of New Westminster and Burnaby’s transition into the communications centre.

“This award is a tremendous recognition of Samantha’s continued commitment and the professionalism she and her teammates show each and every day,” said E-Comm President and CEO David Guscott. “Training is a significant contributor to effective 9-1-1 service and something we emphasize in our centre.”

The conference took place November 3-6 with more than 470 delegates and exhibitors attending from across Canada and abroad. E-Comm’s Jody Robertson and Ryan Lawson facilitated a workshop on accidental 9-1-1 calls and the resulting drain on emergency services. In addition, Mariana Hanuse and Marc McAdam—team managers at E-Comm—shared their insights and experiences on providing frontline support within the communication centre. E-Comm also participated on a panel that discussed issues related to the implementation, governance and development of Next Generation 9-1-1. Tours of the E-Comm facility also took place throughout the conference, with more than 150 delegates from as far away as India and Australia interested in learning more about the consolidated communications model used in B.C.

APCO Canada recognizes leaders in the public-safety communications industry each year, highlighting the work of individuals and teams who demonstrate excellence, leadership and passion in their work and the contributions they make to public safety.


Public-safety leaders discuss unified approach to interoperability

Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop
(L-R) Nancy Banks (Peel Regional Police; retired), Mike Webb (E-Comm Vice-President of Technology Services) and Gavin Hayes (President of APCO Canada) discuss the future of 9-1-1 services in Canada.

Public-safety leaders from across Canada and around the world gathered for the 8th annual Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop (CITIG-8) to discuss and develop a mutual understanding of current interoperability and information management issues existing within the industry. A hot topic on everyone’s mind: Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1).

“Many important questions were raised about the future of 9-1-1 services as they relate to moving forward with next generation technology,” reported Mike Webb, E-Comm vice-president of Technology Services. “Discussions reinforced the need to create a coordinating body at a national level in order to ensure mutual understanding and aligned expectations, and while a concrete rollout plan for NG9-1-1 is still being developed, the goal remains to establish national architectural and operational standards.”

“Discussions reinforced the need to create a coordinating body at a national level in order to ensure mutual understanding and
aligned expectations.” 

Mike Webb,
E-Comm Vice-President of Technology Services

Public-safety officials from Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Fire-Rescue Services, RCMP E Division, among others, including emergency management agencies, government organizations and academia, attended the Ottawa workshop November 30 to December 4. An important platform for networking and the sharing of information, the event featured numerous presentations including a discussion panel led by industry experts including Gavin Hayes (president of APCO Canada), Nancy Banks (retired from the Peel Regional Police) and E-Comm’s Mike Webb, who provided information about their experiences implementing what is considered to be the first stage of NG9-1-1. This includes updating or replacing existing Public-Safety Answer Point (PSAP) technology with Internet-Protocol (IP) technology and the launch of Text with 9-1-1 services for the Hearing and Speech-Impaired communities. Text with 9-1-1 allows messaging to occur through the voice network, and is the first step toward enhanced NG9-1-1 capabilities such as direct texting to 9-1-1 for the public at large.

Those in attendance for the four-day conference spent time engaged in hands-on sessions designed to help them gain a better understanding on key issues such as NG9-1-1, national and cross-border interoperability planning, trends in technology, including voice and data related issues, social media for emergency management and more.  In addition to workshops and panel discussions, the conference also hosted several presentations and a tradeshow showcasing the industry’s latest technology. For further information on CITIG, visit citig.ca.


Nuisance calls a serious drain on 9-1-1 resources

CTV interview with Warner Yang
(R) E-Comm Call-Taker Warner Yang speaks with CTV reporter Peter Grainger on 2014’s top nuisance calls.

On December 30, E-Comm released a list of its top ten reasons to not call the emergency line in an effort to draw attention to the impact on emergency services. At the top of the list: Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop isn’t working.

“Our staff are trained to treat every call that comes through our centre as a valid emergency, until they determine otherwise, no matter what the circumstance,” explained E-Comm’s Director of Corporate Communications Jody Robertson. “Even if the reason for the call seems absurd on the surface, 9-1-1 call-takers need to take time to determine exactly what’s going on and whether someone genuinely needs help. Calls about internet access and cold food are a serious drain on emergency resources.”

“We’re here to help people with real emergencies; if someone calls 9-1-1 about internet problems that means I’m not available to help someone who really needs it.” 

Warner Yang,
E-Comm Call-Taker

More than 2,500  9-1-1 calls per day were placed to E-Comm in 2014 and while Robertson emphasized that the majority of people use 9-1-1 responsibly, there are too many calls that come through the communications centre that do not meet the test of a true emergency: a police, fire or medical situation that requires immediate action because someone’s health, safety, or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress.

“We’re here to help people with real emergencies,” said E-Comm 9-1-1 Call-Taker Warner Yang, recipient of 2014’s top nuisance call. “If someone calls 9-1-1 about internet problems that means I’m not available to help someone who really needs it.”

Top ten reasons to NOT call 9-1-1

  1. Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop isn’t working
  2. “What’s the fine for jay walking?”
  3. Pizza not fresh; wants a replacement slice
  4. “What’s the number for my travel agency?”
  5.  Caller phoned 9-1-1 to ask for a taxi referral
  6. “Is today a stat holiday?”
  7. Food they ordered is cold
  8. Wants help finding lost glasses
  9. Home Internet is not working
  10. “What’s the date today?”

 E-Comm in the community

Ali with mascot friends.
E-Comm attended First Responders Weekend at Science World on October 18 and 19, 2014.
ALI with Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu and mascots
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu with (L-R) Chip, ALI and Nitro at the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade December 7, 2015.

E-Comm service by the numbers

October – December 2014

9-1-1 service levels

9-1-1 calls placed to E-Comm*:  271,901

Service level achieved**:  98%

* Total number of 9- 1-1 calls are for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Whistler/Squamish and 18 regional districts in the Northern, Southern and Central Interiors and Northern Vancouver Island.

** Service Level Target: 95% of all 9-1-1 calls answered in five seconds or less.


Number of 9-1-1 calls from landlines and cellphones

Landline: 96,625;  35%

Cellphones:  175,276;  65%

 


9-1-1 calls directed to police, fire and ambulance

Pie graph for 9-1-1 calls directed to police, fire and ambulance

 


Technology

9-1-1 availability:  100%

Radio network availability average:  99.99%

Number of radio transmissions:  31,039,117

Radio system air time (seconds):   118,481,927