Call takers with E-Comm are reminding people that 911 is not the number to call with complaints after an Amber Alert was issued last Saturday (March 26).
Kaila Butler, a communications manager with E-Comm, said that 911 call volumes nearly doubled within a half-hour following the Alert.
“During that 30-minute span, we’d typically answer about 125 calls — that spiked to almost 250 calls during that short period,” she said.
When an Amber Alert is in place, E-Comm asks callers whether they need police, ambulance, fire or Amber Alert to ensure information is directed to the agency best suited to receive it.
However, several callers phoned to complain about the noise of the Amber Alert. Others called looking to verify that the alert was real. E-Comm does not keep track of how many nuisance calls are made because their priority is freeing up the line for real emergency calls, but Butler said almost every call taker working received calls related to the Amber Alert.
“Getting an alert like this is very jarring. It’s loud, it’s unexpected, but try to take the time to read the steps in the alert when they come through. The alerts have almost all the information that you’ll need to know. And of course, please don’t call 911 for that sort of information. There are better resources.”
This was the first time that B.C. has used the Alert Ready system for an Amber Alert. The system is seldom used and sends direct alerts to cell phones across the province.
Butler said that people with complaints about the alert or those seeking to verify if the alert is legitimate should direct their comments to Emergency Management B.C., which operates the Alert Ready system. She also encouraged people to follow E-Comm and Emergency Info BC on social media to receive up-to-date information.
The Alert was issued around noon on Saturday for northern B.C. man Jason Dalrymple. Police believe Dalrymple had abducted his four-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter, as well as their mother and was headed toward Ontario.
Police cancelled the Amber Alert after the family was found in Kenora, Ontario, near the border with Manitoba. Dalrymple was taken into custody and the family received support from the police.
“We do appreciate all of the valuable information and tips we did get over the phone,” E-Comm call taker Frisha Buksh said in a video posted to Twitter. “But we do really want to stress that when there are active emergencies happening we do want to keep the lines open for active emergencies, especially due to the fact that we had an Amber Alert issued.”
It can be scary to hear an emergency alert. We are grateful to those who called in with tips on Saturday, but we also received many complaints/questions. During an alert, only dial 911 if you are experiencing an emergency, or have critical info to share about the alert. #911BC pic.twitter.com/4sCOsub2yJ
— E-Comm 9-1-1 (@EComm911_info) March 29, 2022