B.C. first-responders gearing up for blast of hot temperatures

B.C. first-responders gearing up for blast of hot temperatures

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — First-responders are anticipating another busy few days, as the latest blast of hot weather begins to descend across much of southern B.C.

Judging by what the province saw during the heat dome two months ago, Troy Clifford with the Ambulance Paramedics Union says they’re definitely expecting an increased number of calls over the next few days.

Clifford warns this could once again mean delays in getting paramedics to you if you run into trouble, as they’re dealing with ongoing staffing issues. “We haven’t been able to really bolster [our numbers] the way we need to, to get through the short term over the summer.”

In late June, the heatwave saw temperatures soar to 40C in some parts of the province. Between June 25 and July 1, 815 people died from a sudden death across the province. This was a four-fold increase over the average for that period of time. Heat is believed to be a factor in many of the deaths.

In response to the “heat-related deaths,” the province promised to hire more paramedics and emergency call-takers, something Clifford says is happening, but not fast enough for this heatwave.

“Postings are in place, and they’ll be filled in the fall as we transition, but those positions are transition of on-call or part-time positions to full-time positions. We really need to bolster our profession with people coming into the profession. And that’s the toughest challenge we’re having right now … we just don’t have enough paramedics across the province to fill a lot of remote and rural communities primarily.”

The areas most urgently need for, according to Clifford, is Metro Vancouver and remote communities.

In the interim, Clifford says they will be breaking union rules to bring on as much staff as possible this week.

“We’ve committed to anything we need to adjust, even temporarily or without prejudice, to make sure that we meet the means of the public, immediately,” he says.

“There’s a lot of pressures on the emergency system in the province. But paramedics and dispatchers are continuing, and they’ve been pretty resilient,” he adds.

Clifford tells NEWS 1130 new EHS management has been very proactive, approving overtime, while his union is bending its rules as well, but concedes mother nature may back things up — beyond heat-related calls.

“We’re seeing some incredible fires and evacuations across the province, which there’s a long of shut-ins that need to be planned for when moved before while they’re in alerts as opposed to evacuation orders.”

Emergency call takers warn of delays in services

Jasmine Bradley with E-Comm says when emergency services are busy, call-takers focus on helping people who need assistance from first responders right away.

“That does, unfortunately, mean that we start to see wait times on the non-emergency lines creep up,” she says. “So people can check their local police agencies website, see if there’s online reporting, which is a great way to to make sure that you do file that report with police but doesn’t mean you have to call the 10-digit-line. And we’ve got lots of resources on our website for alternate resources that people can turn to for assistance.

E-Comm will be prepared with additional staff for the heatwave, but Bradley suggests the public can help by knowing when to call alternate resources if it’s not an emergency.

Temperatures are going to poke up into the mid-30s across the South Coast starting Wednesday. Meanwhile, on Thursday, we could see highs, 35 to 37 degrees. However, with the humidity, it is expected to feel more like the low-40s in some parts of the region.

The peak of the wave is expected Thursday, and nighttime lows aren’t expected to dip below 17 C.

For the rest of the week and through the weekend, temperatures could hit the high 20s to low to mid-30s in some parts of the province.