Canadian cellular telephone users need to know where they are and be clear with 911 dispatchers about their location or response could be delayed in an emergency, according to Lieutenant Bill Slodysko, deputy director of What-Comm 911, the agency responsible for handling emergency calls in Whatcom County.
“If you’re a 911 caller and your phone reaches a Canadian 911 center you need to be very specific about being in Point Roberts,” Slodysko said. Once a Canadian dispatcher knows the caller is in Point Roberts they will be transferred immediately to the What-Comm 911 dispatch center in Bellingham and local law enforcement or fire will be called out as needed. It isn’t always obvious to a Canadian 911 operator that the person is calling from Point Roberts and callers aren’t given any indication that they’ve reached a cross-border dispatcher. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are identically named streets on both sides of the border.
Slodysko added it was really all cell phone users, not only Canadians, who need to be clear about their location, since only calls from landlines would access the master street address guide. “It’s a database that has address information associated with it, and we see the actual physical address the call is coming from immediately on the screen,” he said.
“In the case of a cell phone, we get locating technology that depends on a lot of things, including the service provider, whether the phone has GPS capability and how good the fix is,” Slodysko said.
“A lot of times all we’re getting is which cell tower you’re hitting,” he said. “Always know your location and be very specific about where you are.”