Fire department should have been dispatched; RDEK

An issue with dispatch terminology prevented emergency services from responding to a vehicle fire.

A miscommunication in dispatching prevented emergency services from responding to a vehicle fire near Elko.

Carolyn GrantBulletin Editor

Last week the Bulletin reported on concerns from Kimberley resident Orin Hoglund regarding a 911 call he placed that didn’t get the response he was hoping for.

Hoglund said he reported a vehicle fire near the Elko sawmill on July 5, 2016.

“I called 911 and told them what I saw. They asked me the location, I said about five kilometres from Elko. I didn’t know which fire department was closer, Elko or Baynes Lake but I said probably Elko. They asked me if I knew the name of the road. I wasn’t sure. I know the local name for it. She (911 operator) said is there potential for a forest fire? I said there are flames six feet high, you tell me.”

Hoglund told the Bulletin he was surprised to find out later that the fire was not responded to by either of the fire departments

RDEK Emergency Services Coordinator Travis Abbey followed up on the complaint and says the RDEK has identified and corrected an issue with dispatch terminology.

“We had a resident contact one of our South Country Rural Fire Departments recently after he called to report a vehicle fire on a rural road and the local fire department didn’t respond,” explains RDEK Emergency Services Coordinator Travis Abbey. “We have a system in place to follow up on questions or concerns regarding both 9-1-1 and fire dispatch, and during the investigation into this complaint, it was discovered that there was an error in the dispatch of that call.”

The call was transferred by the dispatch centre to the BC Wildfire Service’s Southeast Fire Centre as it was interpreted to be outside the fire protection area. While RCMP responded to the vehicle fire to monitor the situation, the BC Wildfire Service did not dispatch a crew as the fire was isolated and not in danger of spreading. Through follow-up on the inquiry, it was determined the fire was actually within a fire protection area.

“We want to thank the individuals who came forward to ask about the circumstances of this particular call as it has helped us identify ways to improve the communication and dispatch terminology and ensure this situation is not repeated in the future,” adds Abbey. “In the RDEK, well over 1500 9-1-1 calls are placed every year and the vast majority of those calls are placed and handled seamlessly; however, when someone experiences an issue with 9-1-1 or fire dispatch, we need to hear from them. This is an excellent example of how hearing about a concern can help us investigate and, if possible, put measures in place to improve the system.”

Public concerns can be directed to the RDEK’s Emergency Services Coordinator, Travis Abbey at 250-489-2791 or toll free 1-888-478-7335.

The RDEK provides 9-1-1 service to the region. The 9-1-1 service is contracted to E-Comm and callers are asked if they require police, fire or ambulance. E-Comm’s job is to connect the caller as quickly as possible to the agency requested and remain on the line until the appropriate dispatch has answered. Police calls are handled directly by E-Comm, while ambulance calls are forwarded to the BC Ambulance Service Dispatch in Kamloops, and fire calls are dispatched by the fire dispatch centre in Kelowna.