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How many of us have ever dialled 911? What happens when we do? Does the system work?

First off I want to concede that the British Columbia Ambulance Service probably saves hundreds of lives a year and we wouldn't want to get along without it.

Secondly though I feel a duty to inform my community of Whistler that on Feb. 28, 2001, after talking my distraught son, suffering from acute depression. I called 911 from the mountain on my cell phone and instructed them to send an ambulance to my home ASAP, to attend to him. The arrival of an ambulance nearly 30 minutes later clearly cost my son his life.

I know that the ambulance station is only a 2-3 minute drive from my home. Even if they were somewhat busy there is more than one ambulance. Even then there is more than meets the eye. A 911 call does not go to the Whistler Medical Clinic or the Whistler Ambulance Station. The call goes to a call centre in Vancouver where it is assessed and then relayed back up to Whistler for dispatch. In our family’s unfortunate case my original call was, in my lawyers words, improperly assessed and incorrectly downgraded according to B.C.A.S.'s code assessment guidelines. My tone of voice was not hysterical which led to an incorrect assessment. The call was also downgraded because I asked them not to have sirens on. I did this for two very good reasons 1) I wanted to preserve any self-esteem he had left in case he wasn't planning to harm himself and 2) I didn't want to startle him in case he was. In addition to this error there is an unexplained gap of about 15 minutes, from the time the 911 call was received and when it was dispatched back up to the Whistler Medical Clinic.

As in the case with most all large corporations and government agencies after our inquiries they went into a self protection mode, washed their hands, absolved themselves from any liability and closed the file. The reason I am writing this now that there is a two year window of opportunity to commence any legal proceedings. Both the coroner and B.C.A.S. "dragged" the process out until the final report came out a few days before the end of that period. Yes they were sorry about Kelty but no apologies or recommendations from the coroner’s report or B.C.A.S.'s manager of planning or policy were made.

I truly don't know who I would call if the situation arose again. I was in the weight room a few months after the tragedy when a Whistler fireman approached me and said, "If it happened again, I suggest you call the fire department first." It's as if Kelty fell through the cracks twice.

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