Friday April 18, 2014





New B.C. Ambulance dispatch centre open for business

'This is where we need the public’s help. We want to know what’s happening'
Murray Mitchell

Emergency medical dispatcher Gord Schroeter explains how everything works.

Any kind of 911 call can come through the new B.C. Ambulance Service’s Kamloops Dispatch Operations Centre at any time.

Even an attempt by dispatcher Gord Shroeter to simulate for the media how 911 calls are received and an ambulance is dispatched was interrupted Thursday afternoon by an actual emergency.

Shroeter’s phone beeped, signalling an incoming call. An event screen popped up and Shroeter pinpointed the address of the emergency.

“You do need a specific address, nothing less than a specific address, or an intersection that we’re being called to,” Shroeter said during the simulation.

With the address, Shroeter can pinpoint the call’s location on his map screen. Then he asks for a contact phone number in case the call is lost.

Next comes the crucial part of any call — a line of questioning that provides paramedics with as much information as possible about the nature of the emergency.

“This is where we need the public’s help. We want to know what’s happening. We’re going to ask questions. We’re going to have to get as much information as we can passed on to the paramedics,” he said.

In the case of the simulation — a male who has fallen — Shroeter asked the patient’s age, how he fell, if he is conscious or bleeding, and what the weather is like.

That’s when the real emergency call came in and media was asked to step aside.

Nine dispatchers are on duty during peak hours, said B.C. Ambulance Supt. Doug Garland. The centre, which has been operational for a couple of months, covers a broad geographic area that stretches south to Hope, north to the Yukon and Northwest Territories, east to Alberta and west to Haida Gwaii.

At 1,662 square feet by 3,289 square feet, the centre is double the size of the former space, he said. Unlike the old facility, dispatcher staff, supervisors and other personnel are all in one building.

Special routing for equipment and some 10 kilometres of cable was added, along with adjustable work surfaces that optimize ease of use and ergonomics, said Garland.

He said the centre handles 100,000 emergency calls a year. The new facility cost $1.2 million.


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