By Meg Olson
Fire chief Christopher Carleton’s concerns about making sure the community knows how to get help in an emergency were highlighted when a citizen helping out a neighbor in distress came to his door rather than calling 911.
When Carleton asked why, the man told him, “I didn’t know your number.” Using a Canadian cell phone, he had figured 911 was unavailable to him in Point Roberts.
“You can still call 911,” Carleton said, and encouraged anyone experiencing an emergency to make that their first and most important call. You just might need to offer up some extra information.
“Tell the operator you are in Point Roberts so you can be put through to Bellingham dispatch,” Carleton advised.
Callers using Canadian cell phones are likely to connect to e-Comm, the dispatch system used in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, he told commissioners at their March 8 meeting, and was in discussion with e-Comm to ensure all their operators were aware of the issue. “They train their people on making the transfer,” he said later.
Carleton encouraged anyone who lives in Point Roberts or spends significant time here to have a landline. “Then they won’t have that issue,” he said.
“What I’m trying to do is clean up the misinformation in the community,” Carleton said. He has learned that some people, believing their 911 calls came directly to the fire station, became frustrated with dispatchers’ questions and were blaming poor connectivity on fire department staff. “We have nothing to do with that,” he said. He emphasized the importance of cooperating with dispatchers – questions will not delay help arriving and would more likely help.
“Be calm when you call 911,” he said. “Do not exaggerate your situation.” Remember, in an emergency, call 911.