Four 9-1-1 calls misdirected, delayed during Fort St. John house fire

Human error is to blame after four 9-1-1 calls were misdirected and delayed during a house fire last month in Fort St. John.

The Peace River Regional District said Friday that a review into 9-1-1 call connection delays during the incident has been completed.

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The regional district, along with North Island 9-1-1, requested the review from E-Comm, which handles all initial 9-1-1 calls from the region from a call centre in Vancouver.

According to the review, there were seven 9-1-1 calls made about the fire at the City Centre trailer court on January 8, six from cellphones, and one from a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone.

Firefighters were called out within 25 seconds of the two first cellphone calls, but the calls after that got mired in misconnections, according to the review.

The other four cellphone calls were received over the next five minutes: just one was properly redirected to North Island 9-1-1, which began handling fire dispatch services for the Peace Region in a controversial move in 2017.

The other three cellphone calls were sent to the fire operations centre in Prince George by mistake, but were able to be redirected “without delay,” the review reads.

The lone VoIP phone call bounced between at least four different call centres before reaching dispatchers — first, to a call centre outside the province.

That's because VoIP phones don't connect directly with 9-1-1 centres in Canada, including E-Comm, according to the review. Those calls first go to third-party call centre outside the province to confirm a caller's location.

When the VoIP call was finally routed to E-Comm, it was answered and redirected to the Prince George fire operations centre, “an additional delay for this caller," the review states.

It's the first major review of 9-1-1 answering services after the regional district outsourced fire dispatch in 2017, a move that prompted public outcry and fears that the loss of local service to the Lower Mainland would lead to increased response times and put lives and property at risk.

E-Comm handles initial 9-1-1 calls from the region, which are then transferred to fire, police, or ambulance dispatch services depending on the nature of the call.

E-Comm forwards fire calls to North Island 9-1-1, which then dispatches local fire departments. BC Ambulance calls are forwarded to a secondary answering service in Kamloops. 

“There are protocols in place with regard to 9-1-1 call transfer between E-Comm and local emergency dispatch centres,” reads a media release from the regional district.

“While this situation was a variance from protocol, and a result of human error, E-Comm has advised the Peace River Regional District and North Island 9-1-1 that the appropriate corrective actions have taken place to mitigate against any errors of this nature in the future.” 

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at

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