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Calgary adds 13 new 9-1-1 emergency communications officers

The City of Calgary graduated its latest 9-1-1 emergency communications officer class on Friday, bringing the total number of officers to more than 300.

Calgary 9-1-1, which takes over 3,500 calls a day and well over a million a year, said that the 13 additional officers would assist in providing better service to citizens by adding additional officers to the city’s four operational teams.

“And that may not seem like enough or a lot broken down into four teams, it makes a very big difference,” said Deputy Chief for Calgary 9-1-1, Glenda Sahlen.

“The calls come in, regardless of how many staff we have, so if our staffing is lower, they are answering more calls and going more call-to-call-to-call. With the addition of these new recruits today, another recruit class in May and another one in September, it’s going to benefit everybody.”

Deputy Chief Sahlen said that because of the increasing call complexity that the 9-1-1 emergency communications officers are facing, the time required to spend on call has increased over the past five years.

She said that the new recruits would mitigate some of those challenges that the service is facing.

The graduates ceremony was attended by representatives of City of Calgary departments, along with partner agencies like Calgary Bylaw, Calgary Police, and the Calgary Fire Department.

As part of the ceremony, the graduates had their recruit epaulettes removed, and were given their 9-1-1 officer badges.

All of the graduates received 12 weeks of intensive training, and an additional three-weeks of officer coaching.

Graduates better prepare city for emergencies

Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Chief Susan Henry said that having the additional officers helps to increase the situational awareness for first responders in the city.

“Calgary is the disaster capital of Canada. There’s no question we’ve had a large number of events, and every single resource that we can have responding to those events helps us be better prepared and more able to meet the needs of citizens,” Henry said.

“Having 13 more folks in Calgary 911 that can help us respond to citizen questions, help us respond to citizen emergencies when something happens really helps the city as a whole be more resilient.”

Chief Henry said that as an organization, CEMA is always in preparedness mode. The agency recently submitted a report to Calgary city council that outlined the shifting nature of the risks the city faces, including new risks of civil disobedience, a breach of the Elbow River Dam, and the pandemic.

“That’s one of the major things that’s so incredible about the services that we have here: we are always looking at the risks that we have the resources that we have and always pushing our agency members to be more and more prepared,” Chief Henry said.

“Part of our preparedness is staffing and making sure that people have the resources to not only respond, but to do some of the front end work that we need to do to get ready.