With the holiday season underway, Christmas parties are bound to happen — but if your neighbour is too noisy for your liking, it’s not a reason to call 911, according to emergency operators.
E-Comm, the agency responsible for emergency communications operations in B.C., is hoping to relieve pressure from its 911 call takers, so it’s offering advice on what is an emergency and non-emergency call.
To report noise complaints, people should contact their local city services during business hours, and outside business hours, their local police department’s non-emergency line, says E-Comm in a release Monday.
But if you’re witnessing a crime in progress, like someone stealing a package from a porch, that is worth a call to 911, notes call taker Saide.
“If you notice your package is stolen after the act, that’s when you call your local police non-emergency line or file a report online,” said Sadie in the release.
The same goes for festive inflatables, says E-Comm.
If one is missing from your lawn, go online and file a police report or call the non-emergency line. People who have fallen victim to a charity scam where money has been lost should also call this line, but if no money was lost, they should reach out to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
“If you return to the parking lot after last-minute holiday shopping and notice your car has gone missing, please check with your local towing company before calling the non-emergency line,” said E-Comm.
Meanwhile, inclement road conditions should be reported to DriveBC, and drivers can also call 511 for road closure information, and should “practice extra caution while driving in heavy rain and snow,” according to the agency.
The tips come as E-Comm adds new call takers to its team.
“This week, E-Comm welcomed an additional twelve call takers to its dedicated non-emergency team. The group represents the third cohort of employees to join the newly-formed team in 2023,” it says, “and is one of several initiatives introduced by E-Comm this year to improve non-emergency call-taking.”
The agency says this represents “a break from the traditional service-delivery mode,” because these call takers don’t switch back and forth between emergency and non-emergency calls and instead focus on the latter.
It says this is also helping to speed up answering times, including on the Lower Mainland, where non-emergency call times were reduced from more than 12 minutes in 2022 to around four minutes year-to-date in 2023.
E-Comm serves 25 regional districts across the province.
In 2017, it signed agreements with police agencies on southern Vancouver Island and the Capital Regional District for the formation of a new consolidated 911/police dispatch centre.
This year, 62 per cent of non-emergency calls were answered in less than three minutes, compared to 41 per cent in 2022, and Oliver Grüter-Andrew, E-Comm’s president and CEO, says he’s thrilled they’re “consistently” hitting all targets for emergency calls.
The agency is also implementing a digital agent pilot project at the Vancouver Police Department, a new non-emergency contact centre technology platform and the standardization of various procedures and policies.
“…we know there have been ongoing challenges with service levels and wait times on police non-emergency lines, which has been a priority for us in 2023,” said Grüter-Andrew.
“We fully recognize the importance of reporting non-emergency crimes in a timely and efficient way, and will continue to work with our valued policing partners on these improvements, building on the positive momentum we’ve seen so far this year.”
At the start of 2023, E-Comm released its top nuisance calls list from the year prior, and the list for this year is expected to be released in the new year.