CUPE ramps up campaign to fix B.C.’s broken 9-1-1 system
On the occasion of Emergency Services Dispatchers and 911 Awareness Week, the union representing E-Comm’s 9-1-1 dispatch operators in British Columbia says critical front-line staff need a genuine show of support – in the form of stable, predictable funding and the establishment of consistent service and response standards.“For most people, the 9-1-1 system is out of sight and out of mind until it becomes essential at the most critical moments of our lives,” says CUPE 8911 President Donald Grant. “Emergency communications professionals often bring about calm in the face of panic. They are a vital component of the emergency response system, and their actions play a role in saving lives each day. They truly are unsung heroes.” The union applauds the provincial government’s recent budget, which announced a significant investment that will bring the emergency response system into the digital age. This is an important step forward for emergency communications in British Columbia and represents an important upgrade for emergency services. But the union says that consistent service and response standards for emergency communications in British Columbia must be established to ensure that emergency response systems are able to keep up with changing technology and rising demands. “Early indications suggest that the province’s 9-1-1 system is on pace for another record year in call volumes but there remain no provincial standards for call response times,” says Grant. “The public expects when they dial 9-1-1 that their call will be answered immediately, critical information will be gathered accurately, and they will quickly receive the help they need consistently across the province. Because there are no service standards, there are no required staffing levels and in turn the call response times are not meeting expectations.” CUPE 8911 is advocating for the province to establish consistent service and response standards, in line with those of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NENA standard is for 90 per cent of all 9-1-1 calls arriving to be answered within 10 seconds and for no call to be left unattended once answered until assessed. The NFPA standard for fire emergencies is for 90 per cent of calls to be answered in less than 15 seconds, and crews dispatched in 90 per cent of events in less than 60 seconds. About Emergency Communications Professionals of British Columbia: ECPBC represents more than five hundred 9-1-1 operators, call takers, dispatchers, IT, and support professionals employed by E-Comm Emergency Communications for BC Inc. With worksites in Vancouver, Burnaby, and Saanich, ECPBC’s members provide 99 per cent of the initial 9-1-1 call answer for the province and answer, triage, dispatch, and update the calls in order of priority for 33 police agencies and 40 fire departments in B.C.