Vancouver police officers are asking everyone to only call 911 during emergencies as they are dealing with dozens of heat-related deaths in the city.
Police said officers have responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on Friday and 20 sudden deaths as of 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday alone.
Police said more casualties are being reported by the hour and the emergencies have depleted front-line resources and severely delayed response times throughout the city.
“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” Sgt. Steve Addison of the VPD said in a release. “Our officers are stretched thin, but we’re still doing everything we can to keep people safe.”
On a typical day, Vancouver police officers respond to between three and four sudden deaths throughout the city, police explained, working with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services, BC Ambulance, and the BC Coroners Service to investigate.
Since Friday, they have averaged more than 14 sudden deaths a day.
Uptick in heat-related deaths strains Metro Vancouver emergency services
“The vast majority of these cases are related to the heat,” Addison added.
“We’ve never seen anything like this, and it breaks our hearts. If you have an elderly or vulnerable family member, please give them a call or stop by to check on them.”
The VPD is immediately redeploying officers from its investigation division, and calling other officers in from home in an attempt to ease the backlog of calls. However, they warn that it could take several days for things to return to normal.
“Until this subsides, our priority will be responding to crimes-in-progress and calls that involve an immediate risk to the public,” Addison said.
“We’re asking everyone to be patient and to understand that we’re doing everything we can to respond to your calls for help.”
Paramedics scramble to meet demand amid B.C. heat wave
Vancouver is not the only jurisdiction dealing with these heat emergencies.
Burnaby RCMP said they have responded to more than 25 sudden deaths in the last 24 hours, many of them heat-related.
The current heat wave sweeping B.C. is putting a major strain on all the emergency services in the province.
On Saturday, B.C. set a new record for the most number of ambulance dispatches ever at 1,850. More than 7,700 calls were answered on the 911 lines Monday, with approximately 30 per cent of those being requests for the ambulance service, E-Comm confirmed.
In Vancouver, the fire department is even assisting paramedics with callouts.
“We had every rig, or every one of our apparatus out last night, around midnight, running around the city assisting medical calls, dealing with heat exposures and cardiac arrests,” Vancouver Fire Rescue Services Chief Karen Fry told Global News.
E-Comm is asking anyone who calls 911 to stay on the line, no matter what, and to know the location of the emergency.
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