Founded in 1974, BC Ambulance Service is the largest provider of emergency health care in Canada and one of the largest in North America.
Under the authority of BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) serves over 4.3 million British Columbians and responds to calls for service across six health authorities covering 929,730 square kilometres.
BCAS is dedicated to providing British Columbians with access to high quality and timely patient care. Through the provision of dispatch and paramedic services, we deliver expert patient care from the time a call for help is placed to 9-1-1, to treatment at the scene and transport to hospital.
9-1-1 is an easy to remember telephone number that will provide you with direct access to all emergency service providers in British Columbia, including Ambulance, Police, and Fire.
You can dial 9-1-1 from any telephone and without a coin when using a public telephone.
9-1-1 provides priority access to emergency services and should only be used when immediate response is required.
Here are some examples of when it is appropriate to call 9-1-1 for emergency medical care:
- When experiencing pains or tightness in the chest
- If a person is choking or having difficulty breathing
- When experiencing shortness of breath
- If you think you may have fractured/broken a bone, or have a wound that may need stitches
- When you have sudden, severe headaches, vision problems, sudden weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the face, arm or leg, trouble speaking, or dizziness
If in doubt about whether you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
If you are not experiencing a medical emergency, call 8-1-1 for confidential health information and advice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When contacting 9-1-1, callers should be prepared to answer questions, listen carefully, speak clearly and try to remain calm. BC Ambulance Service Emergency Medical Call-takers (EMCTs) are experienced ‘question askers’ and their persistence provides specific information to the attending paramedics.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, the EMCT will ask you for the following information:
- The location of the emergency (so we know where to send the ambulance)
- The apartment number and access code if applicable
- A telephone number (so we can contact you if the call is cut off)
- A description of what is happening
While the ambulance is travelling to the location, the EMCT will ask you some simple questions about the condition of the patient to help the paramedics understand the details of the situation.
Some examples of the questions you may be asked are:
- Is the patient conscious?
- Is the patient breathing?
- Does the patient have chest pain?
- Is there any severe bleeding?
EMCTs need to ask you specific questions in a specific order to help you as quickly and effectively as possible. Remain on the line to provide additional information if requested to do so by the EMCT.
- Clear a path to the patient (move furniture and unlock doors)
- If possible have someone wait outside to meet the ambulance
- Be sure your house number is clearly visible from the street
- If you live in a house, turn on the outside lights at night
- If you live in an apartment, try to meet the ambulance at the lobby door and have the elevator ready
- Do not move the patient, unless their life is threatened
Internet and cable-based telephones, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or broadband telephones, look and function like traditional telephones, but use a high-speed internet or cable connection to make and receive calls.
Like a computer, these phones are not associated with a fixed physical address. This can present challenges for emergency service providers, as some internet phones use technology that does not transfer important safety information such as home address and telephone numbers to 9-1-1 call centres.
9-1-1 calls placed from VoIP phones are generally routed to a third-party service provider that in turn transfers the call to the closest 9-1-1 centre, but without address information. BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) advises British Columbians who use internet or cable-based phones to contact their VoIP phone providers to find out what emergency features are included in their package or offered by the company.