LETTER: Emergencies can wait on Sasquatch Mountain

Hemlock Valley resident Andy Ibbetson writes about his concerns on the new E-comm 911 service

Dear Editor,

I am writing as a concerned Hemlock Valley homeowner to inform you of a worrying situation that is ongoing in the FVRD recreational area that encompasses the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.

If you or a member of your family have a medical emergency and call the new E-Comm 911 system, an ambulance will be dispatched and then you sit back and wait and wait — on a good day in summer 40 to 60 minutes, or on a busy day in the winter, much much longer. No help will come even though the Hemlock Valley Volunteer Fire Department has members who are trained nurses, paramedics and multiple first aid/CPR-trained fire fighters, ready to answer the call. This because of a bureaucratic road block put in the path of people needing help.

Imagine calling 911 during a situation where a child or aged parent is being directed over the phone to perform CPR. Consider what it would be like for to be alone and trying to perform chest compressions for an hour or more until help arrives. Now consider that multiple first aid and CPR-trained individuals with equipment and resources are minutes away or in the house next door, but not told what is going on.

RELATED: Fire chief says 911 dispatch system change in B.C. risks patient safety

I personally experienced this situation last week in Hemlock Valley. In an attempt to rectify this obvious oversight in the emergency response plan for the valley, I took it upon myself to notify the manager of emergency services at the FVRD and the director for Area C (no response). My optimistic expectation of a simple, quick solution was dashed when I received a reply informing me that because the Hemlock Valley Volunteer Fire Department is not classified as a “first responder hall” and as such it is not dispatched to medical calls initiated through the E-comm 911 system because the government-imposed response matrix doesn’t allow for customization.

To answer in this fashion is, in my opinion, an abdication of responsibility by local government. According to the official OCP for Hemlock Valley, the government is obligated to “assist the local people, where possible, in achieving the best service available for Hemlock Valley.” This is one of this situations where it gets ducked and dived until someone dies. Last week someone died and I cannot stand by and let this happen.

Until this situation is rectified, anyone living or visiting Hemlock Valley and/or the Sasquatch Mountain Resort should be warned that they won’t get immediate assistance unless they specifically ask for the fire department to attend.

-Andy Ibbetson, Hemlock Valley

Editor’s note: E-comm is a transfer service only. Although callers are initially connected with E-Comm, they are then transfered to the appropriate service. In this case, calls would be transfered to BCEHS, which has its own protocol for dispatching ambulances.


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