Combermere author seeks changes to 911 system

Mark Jones

BARRY’S BAY After the tragic death of her sister Kathryn in 2014, Combermere resident Brenda Missen and her family are seeking changes to the way the 911 system works in Ontario.

Kathryn Missen was home alone in Casselman, a town 40 minutes east of Ottawa, on September 1, 2014, when she had an asthma attack. She called 911.

What happened next, Brenda Missen believes, reveals systematic weaknesses in the Ontario 911 system, which varies across the province.

Kathryn’s emergency call was answered by a call taker 400 kilometres away at the Central Emergency Response Bureau in North Bay, as would a 911 call made from Renfrew County.

The first call taker asked, “Do you require fire, ambulance or police?”

In what was the only time Kathryn ever used the 911 system, she was unable to speak clearly because of the asthma attack.

In Kathryn’s case, the first call taker tried for almost a minute to understand the reason for the call, but all that could be heard on the line was wheezing and moaning.

The first call taker’s task in North Bay is to transfer the call quickly to the service call centre closest to the need.

As Kathryn was unable to make the call-taker understand what she was trying to say, the call was transferred to the police as a default. So, the call was transferred to a second call taker at the regional OPP call centre in Smiths Falls, 100 kilometres from Casselman.

To read the full story, pick up a copy of the December 5, 2018 Valley Gazette or subscribe online.