The first responder dispatch protocol was also rolled out during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. (Black Press Media files)

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

B.C. firefighters have been directed by the provincial health officer to only respond to the most life-threatening medical calls, in the latest move to limit the possibility of COVID-19 transmission between first responders and the public.

The implementation of the first responder dispatch protocol is to minimize risk to non-paramedic first responders while also limiting the amount of personal protective equipment being used, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, who announced the new measure on Tuesday (March 31).

Personal protective equipment includes n95 face masks or face shields, medical-grade gloves and gowns.

“During a pandemic, when we know that personal protective equipment is so important for our health-care workers and for our paramedics, we want to avoid exposing as many first responders as possible,” Henry said.

ALSO READ: Do you think you have COVID-19? Here is what to do next

With many calls to 911, dispatchers will usually dispatch both a paramedic and a firefighter to the incident. Until further notice, firefighters will now only respond to purple colour-coded calls – which are the most urgent calls, typically determined by if a person is not breathing. There are exceptions, such as if backup is needed by police or fire crews or if paramedics are unable to respond within a certain time frame, or roughly 20 minutes.

Similar measures were taken during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

Firefighters in larger communities have spent much of the last four years assisting paramedics in responding to overdose calls, serving on the front lines of B.C.’s first – and still ongoing – provincial health emergency.

In 2019, there were 24,166 overdose-related calls made to 911 across B.C., an average of 66 calls each day, according to BC Emergency Health Services data.

Because those calls often are designated as red colour-coded calls within the computer-automated dispatch system, concerns have been raised that this new protocol could cause delays in response times to overdoses, especially in Vancouver where a lion’s share of fatal overdoses have occurred.

On Saturday (April 4), Henry explained that the change derived from discussions with BC EHS, paramedics and fire services and concerns of ensuring the safety of all first responders.

READ MORE: How B.C. paramedics are responding to COVID-19

“It reflects the reality on the ground that we want the paramedics to be available for these calls and we want to ensure that everybody who’s at the calls that are needed have the personal protective equipment that they need,” she reiterated, adding that there is an ambulance station in the Downtown Eastside able to respond to red colour-coded calls.

Meanwhile, other emergency events such as car crashes have seemingly lessened as people remain close to home, Henry added.

According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, as HealthLink BC staff have worked call wait times on the 811 non-emergency line down to one minute or less, paramedics have been dealing with many more influenza-related calls than usual.

On March 23, BC EHS responded to 331 such calls. On March 30, paramedics responded 1,333 overall calls, with 294 of those regarding influenza-like symptoms.

The normal average is 1,540 calls.

Health officials have urged anyone who is feeling symptoms related to COVID-19, including a fever, dry cough or fatigue, to call 811 or use the online assessment tool. Anyone feeling difficulty breathing is advised to call 911.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusfirefighters

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Masks are now compulsory at all Prince Rupert public facilities and the City reminds people to discard used masks in waste bins, a media release on Oct. 29 said. (Photo by K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Mandatory mask-wearing effective immediately at city public facilities

City of Prince Rupert makes masks compulsory to protect community health and safety

North Coast home-grown ice talent Carly Edwards from Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert takes centre ice on TV competition show Battle of the Blades Thursday nights at 8 p.m., with her partner NHL partner Kris Versteeg. (Photo supplied)
Local figure skater spotlights on TV show’s centre ice

Prince Rupert’s Carly Edwards is featured on TV competition show Battle of the Blades

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
PHOTOS: Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

B.C. Ferries is still providing ferry service between Tsawwassen and Victoria, 60 years later. (File - Black Press Media)
Ferry sailings cancelled for Oct. 29th and 30th

BC Ferries announces technical difficulties on Northern Expedition

Technical difficulties with the recording and broadcast of the Oct. 26 Prince Rupert City Council meeting mean residents were unable to watch on TV or online happenings in the meeting. (The Northern View file photo)
Technical difficulties leave public unable to access City Council meeting

Summary brief of Prince Rupert City Council meeting

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

Most Read