Letter: Recognizing the service of Emergency Communicators


Each year, the second week of April is dedicated to recognizing the service of Emergency Communicators.

Locally, our Centre receives approximately 30 000 calls a year for ambulance and fire, covering an area of over 75,000 square kms, from Hornepayne to Serpent River including Chapleau. The provincial government sets high standards that must be met with regard to how we prioritize and dispatch calls. Sometimes the questions we ask can be frustrating or upsetting to callers but we need the information for a specific reason and we hope to educate the public about this.

When a person dials 911 from a landline that has subscribed to 911 service, the address information will show up on the call taker’s screen. In the event that a caller is using a cellphone, limited information will show up. We need to ask questions such as “what city or town” and also the “closest intersection”. This information helps us find the location on a map. We ask apartment number and access code as well, again to help locate a person who needs help.

We ask specific medical or scene questions in order to send the proper resources. The call taking process takes only a few minutes but can seem longer in a crisis. Our goal is to find out what happened and how we can help before the paramedics or fire crews arrive. This includes giving CPR instruction on the phone or staying on the line with a frightened child.
Increased awareness about the stress of the profession has helped us feel recognized and supported and to realize that some calls will affect us after the day is done. When a caller experiences what is their worst day that is our every day. We are now learning to recognize the signs of stress and fatigue so we can take action protect ourselves. This way we can continue to serve the public with courtesy and compassion.

I would like to recognize the hard work of all Emergency Telecommunicators and acknowledge my co-workers for the dedication and skilled experience they bring to work each day.

Terri McMillan
Manager, SSM Ambulance/Fire Communications