No technical issues, 911 probe concludes

Official explanation doesn't square with house fire victim

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
November 9, 2012 01:00 AM

The scene at 775 Stewart Ave.

A series of 911 calls were misdialed in the first few frantic minutes of a Kamloops house fire, an investigation has concluded.

But that finding doesn't satisfy the homeowner, who maintains that she and her neighbours dialled 911 multiple times and received the same message: "All circuits are busy. Please try again."

"There were at least three people I can recall who came out saying, 'It's busy. Can you believe it?' " said Shanna Little.

As she searches for a new rental home for her family, Little has been trying to find out why 911 didn't seem to work on Nov. 3 when they needed it most.

"It's not a matter of blaming anyone; I want to find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again," Little said.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan, which provides 911 response services through a Kelowna operations centre, released the results of its main investigation on Friday.

"I think we can rest assured that there were no technical issues," said Cary Berger, police services manager with the regional district.

The regional district, along with the City of Kamloops, RCMP and Telus began investigating the matter after learning of the problem on Monday. The initial probes could find no technical difficulties and concluded that it wasn't caused by an overload of calls.

Further investigation has found that the initial calls were incorrectly dialled and, as a result, those placing the calls were unable to connect with the 911 operations centre.

According to the findings, the first correctly dialled 911 call was received at 10:16 a.m., was answered by an operator at the centre four seconds later and transferred to the Kamloops Fire Department dispatch centre 11 second later.

In conclusion, the regional district and its partners are encouraging people to remain calm during an emergency, ensure they dial correctly and remain on the line until their call is answered.

But that doesn't solve the mystery for Little.

Little said she made the first call inside the smoke-filled house on a landline (a cord phone) and admits that she probably misdialed that time. That's why she grabbed a cordless phone as she fled with her children. She dialled three or four more times on that phone and got the same recorded message.

That's why Little sat in the street and shouted to her neighbours, "Anyone who has a cell, please call!"

"They got the same message," she said. "Other people got through. Why did some people not? Even my neighbours came running out, 'It's busy!'"

Little spoke with Fire Chief Neil Moroz about the findings. He told her there is no record of those failed calls.

Moroz said on Friday that he's satisfied with results of the investigation and that the 911 system is functioning as it should.

He said it was determined, from the phone numbers obtained, that they either got through to 911 or there was no evidence of those calls.

"Our investigation concluded, at the beginning, it was the same numbers that misdialed, then the first call went through. After that call, two calls were verified that were put in a queue."

One of those callers was answered in 22 seconds, the other hung up.

What of all the other failed calls?

"We have no proof of that," he said.

In the heat of a crisis, two minutes can seem like 10, Moroz suggested, so a 22-second delay is not troubling.

The electronic records within the system provided a clear picture of the circumstances, he added.


Fire investigators have taken a fuse box from the Stewart Avenue house that went up in flames last weekend as they try to find the cause of the blaze.

Kamloops Fire and Rescue investigator Dean Olstad said Friday electrical and heating devices were examined in the house, but no cause could be pinpointed.

There was one room added on to the house as a hot-tub room about 15 years ago that had two fuse panels in it. One was sent away for testing.

While the hot tub moved out seven or eight years ago, the room was being used for other things.

Olstad said the fuse box is being examined because no other causes can be found. It's a process of elimination, he said.

The fire forced a family of eight out of their rented home. Their dog escaped, but their cat and her litter of kittens died in the fire.

The occupants told fire investigators they didn't hear any alarms to warn them about the 10 a.m. fire, but Olstatd said the smoke alarms did not work.

He said it's a good reminder that people should test their alarms monthly and change their batteries twice a year.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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