British Columbia

Port Coquitlam creates new 911 protocol after fire chief slams current one as unsafe

Under a new system implemented by the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) last year, certain calls classified as "moderately urgent" are only forwarded to firefighters if ambulance paramedics can't attend within 10 minutes.

Both paramedics and the fire department will be notified immediately, instead of just paramedics

Nick Delmonico of the Port Coquitlam Fire Department said aspects of a so-called clinical response model adopted by BC Emergency Health Services last May, leave people waiting too long for an ambulance. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The City of Port Coquitlam has created a new 911 protocol following criticism by the city's fire chief the current one put people's lives at risk.

If an emergency happens on city property, staff's first call to 911 will result in an ambulance being dispatched — but they will immediately make a second 911 call to ask for a response from the city's fire and emergency services.   

Under the system implemented by the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) last year, certain calls classified as "moderately urgent" are only forwarded to firefighters if paramedics can't attend within 10 minutes.

"This win-win solution was the result of the productive discussions we had this past week with BC Emergency Health Services," and Fire Chief Nick Delmonico in a statement.

Our primary concern has always been to ensure that our staff are supported and that our residents are provided with a prompt medical response and the highest quality of care. We're committed to working collaboratively to achieve that."   

Dispatch systems vary widely across the country and within provinces, with firefighters in some departments trained as paramedics who respond to more serious medical issues.

Delmonico spoke out after several recent incidents where firefighters were not dispatched to situations where, he says, they were needed. 

In a statement, the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. said they're concerned about the protocol in other municipalities around the province. 

"Delaying the request for paramedics to medical emergencies is dangerous and life threatening," said Cameron Eby, the organization's president. 

"It is imperative that the correct resources are mobilized without delay for critical situations, as time can be the difference between life and death." 

With files from The Canadian Press

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