Ed. Note: This mistake was mine and mine alone - I misunderstood and said the first 9-1-1 call was sent immediately to the correct dispatch centre. This was incorrect - the first two calls were automatically routed to Kelowna. The third call was correctly dispatched. The third call came in with 40 seconds of the first call. I apologize for my error. ~ Kyra Hoggan
An arson fire that destroyed two homes on June 5 has led to the arrest of a Castlegar man and an investigation into problems with 9-1-1. (For previous coverage, click here).
Several residents reported calling 9-1-1 and waiting up to 20 minutes to reach the appropriate dispatcher.
Corporate communications director for e-comm (9-1-1) Jasmine Bradley said they received roughly 25 calls regarding the Yew Street fire, the third of which was dispatched to the Castlegar Fire Department immediately, meaning there was just a 40 second delay in emergency service despite the subsequent technical difficulties.
“E-Comm is the first point of contact for 9-1-1 callers in the Castlegar area. Our staff are responsible for answering the frontend portion of calls ("9-1-1 do you need police, fire or ambulance") and transferring those calls to the requested police, fire or ambulance agency,” she said, providing background on how the process is supposed to work. “Calls for police go to the RCMP in Kelowna, requests for the ambulance service get transferred to one of three dispatch centres managed by BC Emergency Health Services, and calls for the fire department are sent to Kamloops Fire Rescue, who are responsible for call-taking and dispatch services for the Castlegar Fire Department.
She said e-comm staff started to receive 9-1-1 calls about the fire on Yew Street at 10:57 a.m., which is consistent with Castlegar Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio's call records.
“After a full investigation, we can confirm that within 40 seconds of receiving the first 9-1-1 call about this particular incident, we successfully transferred a caller to the correct fire dispatch centre in Kamloops,” she said. “Unfortunately, a technical issue did occur where some calls were automatically transferred to a different fire dispatch centre in Kelowna, based on the location of the cellphone tower those calls connected to. In instances like this, processes are in place to ensure that callers immediately get retransferred to the correct centre.
“Based on the findings of our investigation, we can also confirm that all calls received by E-Comm were immediately answered by one of our 9-1-1 call takers without any delays. The maximum amount of time it took for our call takers to connect callers to a fire dispatch centre was 53 seconds, during which time our call takers remained on the line until a fire call taker was available to take over the call.”
Bradley said that, as a result of their investigation and the technical issue that has been identified, they will be reaching out to TELUS along with fire services partners to discuss this further (said partners including the Castlegar Fire Department and Kamloops Fire Dispatch).
In related news, Castlegar top cop RCMP Sgt. Monty Taylor said a 25-year-old Castlegar man was arrested in relation to the blaze, has been released and will make his first appearance in Castlegar court on Sept. 23, 2020.
The man's name will not be released until official charges have been sworn, which is consistent with local police policy.