The transition of 9-1-1 Primary Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP) services for central Vancouver Island to E-Comm was successfully completed at 0915hrs November 17. Just eight minutes later, the first 9-1-1 call from the Central Island was received by E-Comm and transferred to the ambulance service in Victoria. This transition made E-Comm the first point of contact for 84% of British Columbia’s 9-1-1 calls.
Conrad Cowan, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s (CVRD) Public Safety Manager, acknowledged the collaborative preparation that led to the smooth transition.
“It was very beneficial having E-Comm spend time with us to ensure that we were provided with the very best tailored solutions for emergency communications and the ability to protect the public and save lives,” praised Cowan. “Having looked at all the emergency communications options available to us, from a public safety perspective, it is a pleasure knowing that we have such a dedicated organization serving our communities.”
Approximately 57,000 emergency calls are placed annually from the regional districts of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley, which are now received by E-Comm’s team of highly skilled 9-1-1 call-takers. Staff quickly confirm which agency is required and for which location and then immediately transfer the calls to local police, fire and ambulance dispatch centres.
“9-1-1 is a critical lifeline for people in need of immediate help from first responders and we are committed to providing high-quality, responsive 9-1-1 service to our new partners and the residents of central Vancouver Island,” added David Guscott, E-Comm President and CEO.
“From a public safety perspective it is a pleasure knowing that we have such a dedicated organization serving our communities.”
CVRD Public Safety Manager
The City of Nanaimo and the regional districts of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley jointly own the Central Island 9-1-1 system. They determined through an independent study that transferring Primary PSAP Services would result in considerable cost savings, while providing access to additional staffing resources and the necessary expertise to satisfy current and future technical requirements for 9-1-1.
“Public safety is always a priority and the new partnership with E-Comm will ensure our communities receive added operational and technical benefits,” explained Colin Haime, Deputy Chair of the Regional District of Nanaimo. “This includes a larger workforce to handle high call volume as well as increased security and resiliency.”
E-Comm also answers 9-1-1 calls for five other regional districts on Vancouver Island, as well as Metro Vancouver and 16 other regional districts and communities across B.C.
Managing communication challenges during a major fuel fire was the focus of discussions during a hazardous goods exercise hosted by Delta Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) in November. The tabletop exercise, in which fire, police and ambulance representatives and other agencies participated, was based on an explosion caused by a multi-vehicle accident on Highway 91 in Delta. This marked the first time agencies from the United States joined the multi-agency scenario to evaluate call response and enhance emergency communication procedures for a large-scale incident.
“All of the participants agreed that the inclusion of agencies from across the border provided additional opportunities to further develop our capabilities in future scenarios.”
Delta Fire & Emergency Services Chief
The session focused on creating situational awareness and coordinating centralized messaging and advanced response throughout the different stages of the scenario, from initial calls coming through about the event to response and coordination. Key considerations included the establishment of unified command, protocols enacted for each agency, as well as identifying additional stakeholders to be notified of the incident as the situation unfolded. Cross-border coordination played a significant role in the exercise as representatives from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Department of Homeland Security were on hand to provide additional recommendations for enhancing emergency preparedness and response.
“The interaction and networking of the group was great to observe and be a part of,” commented DFES Chief Dan Copeland. “All of the participants agreed that the inclusion of agencies from across the border provided additional opportunities to further develop our capabilities in future scenarios.”
E-Comm’s Director of Fire Services Dave Mitchell, co-developed the exercise scenario with DFES and facilitated the session. He echoed the Chief’s comments. “Their participation allowed us to identify additional groups that should be notified to assist with resource deployment during a crisis of this kind. We look forward to their continued participation in future exercises and the possibility of on-site visits to share our experiences.”
Along with taking a leadership role in the design of the exercise, members of E-Comm’s Operations team also attended to advise on call volume management for 9-1-1, along with fire and police call-taking and dispatch. Additional topics of interest included the use of mass-calling protocols, technology interoperability challenges, use of unified platforms for mass notification of emergency services and social media for public messages.
Participants included more than 30 individuals representing 14 agencies from the Delta Police Department, DFES, BC Emergency Health Services, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, RCMP, Ministry of Transportation, Emergency Management BC, Coastal Wildfire Branch, Transport Canada, the Corporation of Delta, Surrey Fire Service and Metro Vancouver.