New Brunswickers concerned after 911 calls directed to N.S.

·4 min read
The Canadian Union of Public Employees wants a long-term solution to the shortage of paramedics in New Brunswick. (CBC - image credit)
The Canadian Union of Public Employees wants a long-term solution to the shortage of paramedics in New Brunswick. (CBC - image credit)

A Moncton resident was left concerned after she called 911 and was redirected to three dispatchers in Nova Scotia, without ever reaching someone to provide assistance in the province where the incident occurred.

Candy Walsh called 911 last week when she witnessed a man attack his girlfriend near her home.

Walsh said she explained to the dispatcher where the incident was happening, but they couldn't find her location.

"I thought that was strange, and then she realized I was in Moncton and she said 'Well, I'm in Halifax'," Walsh told Information Morning Moncton.

Walsh was then transferred to another line, but encountered the same scenario. The dispatcher couldn't find her street address in the system and finally realized they weren't in the same province.

She was transferred once again, and was connected with a dispatcher in Nova Scotia for the third time.

"I never did get through to anyone in Moncton," said Walsh.

By that point, she said, five minutes had passed and her neighbour had already reached a local dispatcher, so she hung up.

Submitted by Candy Walsh
Submitted by Candy Walsh

Walsh called her local RCMP department and phone provider the next day to try and figure out what had happened, but no one could provide an answer for her.

While the incident did get resolved, Walsh said it worried her to think about what it could mean if she or her six-year-old daughter were ever in a serious situation and in need of prompt assistance.

"If [my daughter] was choking, five minutes could be life or death," said Walsh.

'A really long process'

Shediac resident Mike Murray had a similar experience recently when he was walking to Parlee Beach with his fiancée and saw a man screaming and waving his arms in the parking lot.

Murray was worried the man might harm himself or others, so he called 911.

He relayed what was happening to the operator and told them where he was.

"I said I was at Parlee Beach and they said 'Wait, where are you again?' "

He said the operator was in Nova Scotia. Once they realized it was a New Brunswick call, Murray said, they transferred him to a new line.

Murray said he was transferred to an operator servicing the northern New Brunswick region and then had to be transferred again. He was transferred to an operator servicing the Shediac region, and then again to the police department.

At that point, the police officer told Murray there had already been calls made about the man and that the situation was under control.

"It was just a really long process to actually get to somebody who could provide some assistance," Murray said.

He said it took about three or four minutes before reaching the police officer and by that time the man had started making his way down to the beach where there were more people.

Submitted by Mike Murray
Submitted by Mike Murray

Murray said the operators involved didn't have an explanation for why he was initially directed to the Nova Scotia bureau.

"They seemed just as surprised as I was," he said. "When I was describing where I was, they seemed very flustered and in a panic trying to figure out who to transfer me to."

Murray said he's thankful the situation wasn't dire, but it did make him concerned for those who may be in a serious circumstance.

911 line still reliable, says director

Jilanna Eagles, assistant director of operations for the NB 911 Bureau with the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said she's not able to speak to specific cases, but confirmed she is working to figure out what happened.

She stressed that the 911 service is reliable, and noted that 911 calls that are near a border can be picked up by those jurisdictions.

"We have procedures in place to make sure calls are transferred back quickly," said Eagles.

She said the best way for New Brunswickers to avoid confusion when placing a 911 call is to answer the first question asked by every operator: "Where is your emergency?"

It's important to be as specific as possible about your location and to include the name of the community, Eagles said.

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