911 calls expected to spike during B.C.'s first summer without COVID-19 restrictions
The agency that oversees the majority of British Columbia’s 911 calls is anticipating one of the busiest summers on record for emergency services and first responders.
E-Comm says it’s already seeing some of its highest volumes of calls in more than two decades.
However, it’s expected to get even busier in the coming months, as this is the first summer in B.C. without major COVID-19 restrictions since the onset of the pandemic.
“A lot of the major events like Celebration of Light and the Canada Day celebrations, the outdoor musical festivals, they're all back in full force. Tourism is back, so we know it's just going to be generally much busier” said Jasmine Bradley, executive director of communications and public affairs for E-Comm.
- Mini heatwave on B.C.'s South Coast to last one more day
- How to keep pets cool during a heat wave
- How to stay cool without AC
The South Coast is also experiencing its first stretch of hot weather this year, meaning more people were out and about.
“E-Comm saw 23 per cent more 911 calls coming through this past weekend than any other weekend in June,” said Bradley.
She says staff were still answering calls in one-and-a-half seconds, on average.
“It was an extremely busy weekend for emergency services. Police overall saw a 19 per cent increase in calls, ambulances saw a nine per cent increase in calls, and fire actually saw twice as many calls as they normally do during a weekend in June,” said Bradley.
Summer is traditionally the busiest time of year for first responders with more people traveling and enjoying recreational activities.
Bradley also attributes the spike in calls to increased cellphone use, a growing and aging population, the illicit drug toxicity crisis, mental health challenges, and weather events like floods, fires and heat.
STAFF SHORTAGES AND INCREASED DEMAND
British Columbians dialed 911 more than two million times last year.
Nine out of 10 of the busiest days for 911 emergency services ever recorded happened in 2021.
Call volumes were up 22 per cent in the last quarter of the year than compared to the same time in 2020.
The agency is predicting a further increase of 12 per cent in emergency calls this year.
Bradley says it's also facing a staffing shortage, with 20 per cent fewer call takers than 2021.
E-Comm is reminding the public to only call 911 during an emergency.
“Forty per cent of the police non-emergency calls that we do receive don't actually belong on the non-emergency lines. They're not police matters,” said Bradley.
However, if it is an emergency, officials don’t want British Columbians to hesitate.
“But if you have a less-urgent health issue, you can call 811 and get connected with a nurse or other professional at HealthLinkBC,” said Brian Twaites, a paramedic specialist with BC Emergency Health Services.
The Vancouver Police Department says it's expecting to see a surge of people enjoying beaches, parks, and entertainment in the city over the next few months.
"More people always bring more calls for police service, and we'll continue to make public safety our top priority,” said Sgt. Steve Addison.
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services is also preparing for increased demand.
“We remind people to ensure their smoke alarms are working, they use and charge lithium ion battery-operated devices safely, and ensure smoking material is discarded properly,” said Matthew Trudeau, captain of public information.
E-Comm is reminding people to only call 911 if immediate action is required by police, fire or ambulance services.
It says callers should know their location so first responders can find them quickly and easily.
“Your call is important, and the clearer and faster you can provide the information they need, the more calls they can take and the more people they can help,” said E-Comm in a news release.
The agency is also reminding people to avoid pocket dials by turning devices on airplane mode if children are playing with it. Calls made in error shouldn't be abandoned, the agency adds, noting hang-ups mean a call taker has to follow up to make sure whoever made the call is safe.
LONG WAIT TIMES FOR AMBULANCES
B.C. is once again struggling to keep up with the demand for ambulances.
Front-line workers tell CTV News that some people in Metro Vancouver waited several hours over the weekend.
“Over the last year we've seen 20, 30, 40 per cent of ambulances at any given time out of service,” said Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.
Clifford says that’s due to a lack of staff.
“We're seeing some communities that are completely out of service and they're trying to cross cover from other communities (by) sharing ambulances,” said Clifford.
He says there have been major efforts to recruit, but not enough people are joining the profession to keep up with demand.
“I'll be brutally honest, we need more,” said Clifford.
He says that’s despite extra funding and resources in recent years.
“What that has done is highlighted how far behind we got over the last 20 years, by the governments of the times. This government put more in the last two years into the ambulance service than I've seen in my whole 34 years, which is incredible, but it's really still not enough,” he said.
Clifford says the current level of service is not acceptable, but those who are working are burnt out and doing the best they can.
“Anytime you don't get the care you need and when you need it for your family or loved ones in a timely fashion that has the potential to have serious outcomes on patient well-being. So is it safe? Probably not,” he said.
Disptachers say current staff are leaving faster than new staff can be hired, leaving them chronically understaffed as well.
“The temporary system that E-Comm instated back in December is still in place where we are essentially hanging up on people that are asking for the ambulance service and leaving them on hold by themselves,” said Donald Grant, president of CUPE Local 8911, which represents dispatchers.
The Ministry of Health said it has added 125 full-time paramedics and 42 new dispatcher positions, but the unions say pay and benefits need to be improved to retain existing staff and ease the burden on the system.
According to BC Emergency Health Services, 46 people usually work dispatch on a Saturday dayshift and this weekend, 16 of those positions were vacant.
Eleven of 43 positions on the overnight shift went unstaffed as well, contributing to lengthy wait times for service.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ben Miljure
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The world's attention on Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday turned anew to the Russia-annexed occupied Crimean Peninsula, where a mysterious ammunition storage fire and explosions injuring two people was the second incident in a week to shake Moscow's sensitivities.
The fatal film-set shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin last year was an accident, according to a determination made by New Mexico's Office of the Medical Investigator following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports. The medical investigator's report was made public Monday by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office along with numerous reports from the FBI on the revolver and ammunition that were collected following the shooting.
While many Canadians don’t support moving away from the metric system of measurement, many continue to use imperial measurements in their daily lives, according to a recent online poll.
For the second time in less than a month, a resident of Ashcroft, B.C., died while waiting for health care after having a heart attack mere metres from a local ambulance station.
With inflation on the rise and central banks poised to increase rates, CTVNews.ca speaks with experts on whether Canada will experience a recession, and if so, what it would look like.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development of Canada Karina Gould is discouraging people from making fake travel plans just to skip the line of those waiting for passports.
A diving accident at 14-years-old left Brian Parker paralyzed from the chest down. Now at age 49, he's without the person who was caring for him full-time until just last week, after his 68-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Actress Bryce Dallas Howard said she was paid 'so much less' than her co-star Chris Pratt for their work in the 'Jurassic World' films.
Opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline currently under construction in Northern B.C took to the streets of Vancouver Monday, briefly blocking north-bound traffic on the Cambie Street Bridge.
'Environmental emergency': Fear for B.C.'s endangered orcas after U.S. boat sinks in critical feeding spot
A fishing boat that sank with nearly 10,000 litres of fuel on board near the Canada-U.S. marine border went down in one of the worst possible places for endangered orcas, an ocean pollutants expert says. Peter Ross, a senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said the vessel sank in an important feeding area for endangered southern resident killer whales.
The daughters of a 60-year-old Vancouver Island man who was found dead in his home in 2019 are suing the Correctional Service of Canada, claiming negligent prison officials allowed two men to escape from a minimum-security penitentiary and murder their father.
The man accused of killing Nanaimo, B.C., teenager Makayla Chang in 2017 has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Steven Bacon entered the guilty plea in a Nanaimo, B.C., courtroom Monday afternoon.
The death of a 63-year-old woman last Friday at a Strathmore care home was a homicide, said Strathmore RCMP in a release issued Monday.
A building along Seventh Avenue S.W. will soon be decorated with a large mural.
An Alberta man drowned over the weekend at a popular lake in British Columbia, Mounties confirmed Monday.
City council approved a $15.2 million investment to fund a joint dispatch centre in Chinatown, with some hoping the province would help pick up the tab.
Edmonton City Council decided to halt the Prairie Sky Gondola project for the time being.
The 29-year-old was charged with two counts of impaired operation causing death, impaired driving and possession of an illegal substance.
Toronto Pearson International Airport has shown signs of improvements in recent weeks, but a traveller and aviation expert says he was disheartened to see 'mountains' of bags and triple stacked security lines at the airport over the weekend.
Police are investigating after multiple shots were fired near an elementary school in Toronto overnight.
As the Canadian National Exhibition prepares to return to Toronto this week, organizers say they worry ongoing labour action could deter people from attending the fair and hamper its revival following a two-year hiatus laden with financial setbacks.
Quebec health authorities are launching another COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign on Monday, targeting people living in CHSLDs and private seniors' residences (RPAs). The recommended interval between baseline vaccination and a first booster dose is three months or more, while the suggested interval between each subsequent booster dose is five months or more.
Several experts note that the number of whales observed this summer on both sides of the St. Lawrence River is low, even though the observation season is not over.
With one week to go before the start of the new school year, the CSQ is concerned that some CEGEPs will be unable to offer certain services and even some courses due to a lack of staff.
The tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings issued in parts of southern Manitoba Monday evening have ended, though severe thunderstorm watches remain.
Southern Manitoba municipalities are gearing up for fall elections, but in areas where the current mayor or reeve is not running, some communities could be short on candidates.
Three people have been arrested after police officers executed a search warrant, which resulted in an armed and barricaded situation that lasted almost 10 hours.
Bear spray incidents at the Saskatoon Ex have prompted Prairieland Park to look at beefing up security measures at the gates.
A judge is reserving decision in an animal abuse case that saw a dog die after being thrown into a metal clothing rack.
The search for a 74-year-old woman lost in the forest northeast of Smeaton has come to a tragic end.
A Regina-born actor will be making her superhero debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) this week, playing the lead role in "She Hulk: Attorney at Law"
A recent regulatory amendment now allows First Nations to operate on-reserve cannabis stores without a permit from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA). However, some First Nations do not think it will change the way current shops already operate.
A Regina woman has died following a two vehicle collision near the town of Qu’Appelle on Highway 1.
Nova Scotia is reporting a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for the month of July, while the number of deaths decreased compared to previous months.
Rocca said an examination of dental records was being conducted Monday afternoon in hopes of identification.
‘I feel positive about the whole thing’: Growing number of Maritimers opting for medical assistance in dying
Five years after it was introduced in Canada, it seems more Canadians are seeking a doctor's assistance in ending their own lives.
Police in Sarnia, Ont. are asking for the public's help locating a missing teenage girl.
Tuesday will kick off with sunshine across the region but Environment Canada is calling for the possibility of showers or even a potential thunderstorm in the afternoon.
Multiple emergency crews responded after a vehicle crashed into a One Plant cannabis store in south London Monday evening.
Lisa LaFlamme is leaving CTV News. The network announced today that the Chief Anchor and Senior Editor is departing after more than 30 years with the company.
Recycling not only benefits the earth, but record prices of certain recyclable products are generating some extra cash for the City of North Bay.
A 72-year-old downtown Sudbury businessman has entered the pool of candidates running for mayor in the City of Greater Sudbury, bringing the number of contenders to nine.
Investigators are still trying to determine how a fire started at a home being rented by university students in Waterloo on Sunday.
As staffing shortages affect several sectors across the province, local non-for-profits say they’re facing a shortage of volunteers.
Some parents are calling for the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) to disclose more details about a data hack that saw what the board describes as “certain” student information accessed.