Prince Albert 911 dispatchers recognized for James Smith stabbings response

(Left to right) Brian Reichle, Brooklyn Deichert, Natasha Cameron, Jessica Masserey, Chantel Jantz and Jill Stefanick. – Parkland Ambulance/Submitted

Telecommunicators across the province are being recognized for their swift and crucial response to the mass stabbings in James Smith Cree Nation.

Marlo Pritchard, president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, presented the Sask911 Teamwork Award to Parkland Ambulance in Prince Albert.

The award also recognizes the two other emergency communications centres in Regina and Saskatoon.

“We’re there to help. The voices behind the phone really feel for you, even though they can’t see you and touch you or be there to hold your hand or to treat and care for you like our paramedics might do,” said Lyle Karasiuk with Parkland Ambulance.

The stabbings occurred in early September in James Smith and Weldon, leaving 11 people dead and 17 injured.

The tragedy resulted in a four-day manhunt for the single suspect, Myles Sanderson, who went into medical distress and died shortly after his arrest near Rosthern.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to get paramedics on site, said Karasiuk.

“You’re not just getting one call to report a single event,” he said.

“You’re getting multiple events in multiple locations and then you’re trying to coordinate the responding rescuers.”

Dispatchers in Prince Albert alone receive around a thousand calls a week. Outside of the mass tragedy, telecommunicators were also coordinating care for people who had fallen or were experiencing chest pain.

“You add a major incident like this in James Smith, it’s a big undertaking,” he said.

But there’s even more to the job, Karasiuk explained – they also have to coordinate transporting patients to hospital, whether it be in Prince Albert or to another facility.

Melfort EMS, the first ambulance service on site, also needed help from other EMS services to care for patients, yet another task that falls on busy dispatchers.

Parkland’s medical communications centre will, at times, juggle calls coming in for the other two centres, depending on call volumes.

Karasiuk said that doesn’t take away from response times.

“People get frustrated when they call and they think, all I want to do is get help coming to my door, but we need to know what kind of help you need,” he explained.

In order for paramedics to get to you efficiently, Karasiuk said, dispatchers must ask a series of questions to determine what’s required. This includes if firefighters or police need to respond as well.

“Often the public just doesn’t understand how much is really going on.” Karasiuk said Parkland Ambulance was notified of the award in April, and the presentation occurred last month.