Kamloops paramedic calls for increased access to multi-family buildings | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops paramedic calls for increased access to multi-family buildings

Paramedics aren't able to access multi-family buildings unless given an access code or assisted by fire rescue personnel.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.
November 13, 2019 - 7:00 AM

A Kamloops paramedic is hoping to see a shift that would allow first responders to get to patients regardless of which type of building they live in.

Last week in Vancouver, a motion was passed to allow first responders access to lockboxes on multi-family units. In many B.C. cities, only fire and rescue personnel have the necessary lock box code or technology to allow building entry.

Paul Alberts, a member of Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. has been working as a paramedic in Kamloops for three years, and now doubles as a dispatcher. He says paramedics often find themselves waiting outside of a building with a patient inside who needs their help.

“In Kamloops, it probably happens every week that we have access problems,” Alberts says. “Other than us trying to force entry, we don't have a way to get inside other than waking up everyone in the building, and despite doing that it’s delaying time to a patient that could be in cardiac arrest, where we need to get to them right away.”

Alberts says dispatch will often ask for help from Kamloops Fire Rescue when they know a situation will prove difficult, such as at a gated community, condo building, or multi-family structure.

“If we know we’re not able to access the patient because they’re either not able to buzz us in or can’t access the door, we will dispatch Kamloops Fire Rescue to help us gain access to the lockbox... but in that case, we’re taking them away from a call that they could be going to, so it’s one of those things, we don’t want to tie up unnecessary resources.”

Alberts says his union also supports the shift, and he says they will work to see a similar motion passed in communities across the province.

“We’re hoping that other municipalities see what Vancouver has passed, we want to see that spread through the province,” Alberts says. “Our union, next year at (the Union of B.C. Municipalities) we’re going to be reaching out to even more municipalities there to see them pass this motion in their own communities, or whether it’s a provincial thing that's passed as well.”

Credit: FACEBOOK / Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.

The motion passed in Vancouver won’t become a reality for quite some time. Vancouver city staff will look into how best to execute this plan, and report back to the council by the last quarter or 2021.

Alberts says building and strata managers can act individually and immediately to allow access for first responders. He says although owners can choose to inform paramedics of lockbox codes or other security methods, there are almost no buildings that have done so in Kamloops.

“Some of the intercoms are the ones that ring peoples cell phones, so there’s a way that the strata or the developments where they could have a code set up and we as paramedics or fire or police can type a code in that would ring our dispatch centre, and we could buzz them in,” Alberts says.

Alberts notes that people in residential homes can prepare for emergencies by having a lockbox or switching their lock and key for a numerical pin pad system.

Shannon Miller, communications officer with B.C. Emergency Health Services, says dispatchers will determine if access is possible, and ensure codes already in the system are up-to-date. Miller says they welcome the idea of access for paramedics, although she notes it could be a lengthy process.

“BCEHS welcomes the initiative for increasing access for emergency service,” Miller says. “If it means that way the paramedics will be able to more quickly be able to get to the patient, of course, we’re supportive.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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