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Spike in 911 calls during chemical fire, people looking for info: ECOMM

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Things were chaotic for local first responders during Wednesday’s three-alarm chemical fire at Port Metro Vancouver. And as a result, there is a plea from one agency that is asking people not to call them, unless it’s an emergency.

E-Comm, the folks who take your 911 calls, says the number of calls began increasing as people realized just how serious the situation was.

The call centre was slammed between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday and employees had to rely on extra resources for help.

“We did see approximately 78 per cent more calls for fire services than an average Wednesday. We immediately implemented our incident command structure, which includes assigning additional resources to directly support our fire dispatchers and calltakers. And because of the size and scope of our centre and because we have access to cross-trained staff, we’re able to re-assign those resources quite seamlessly when there are spikes in call volumes,” says Jody Robertson with E-Comm.

The problem, she points out, is people were clogging up the lines because they were simply looking for information, they weren’t phoning because it was an emergency.

“Once confirming that callers were in no immediate danger, we asked them to follow official sources of information. We don’t want people to use 911 as an information line. It’s critical to keep those lines free for real emergency situations,” adds Robertson.

“There are so many ways to get up-to-date information through online sources, social media, media broadcasts, there are a lot of avenues for getting good, reliable and official information.”

Earlier this week the Vancouver Fire Department, City of Vancouver and Port Metro Vancouver said there would be a review of how things were handled when the fire broke out.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.