Calgary 911 operator the best

Red Cross
I had the fortunate opportunity to deal with a Calgary 911 operator today, Calgary Fire Department and Calgary EMS. I say fortunate not because of the situation, but because of the level of service and professionalism that I witnessed.

Lately the Calgary 911 operators have come under attack for poor service. Today it was the exact opposite. Let me give you some background. I was at work and heading to the washroom. Upon opening the door I noticed a guy squatting beside the garbage can coughing and seemingly struggling to breathe. I casually asked “are you OK man” fully expecting the “yeah I’m cool” response. Instead he replied “NO!” Holy crap; time to enter back into ‘life saver’ mode. I continued to ask him if he’d like me to call someone or an ambulance or what I could get for him. He said that “someone needed to get him help quickly.” That’s all it took and I immediately called 9-1-1 and told him I was doing so. He told me someone had gone back to the call center to talk to someone to have them call. Ummm, last time I checked one of the first rules was to NOT leave someone having difficulty breathing alone. Conversely, if you’re having difficulty breathing DO NOT leave a public area in favour of a private space like a bathroom. You’re less likely to get help where nobody is around.

I stood in the doorway of the men’s bathroom with it propped open while the guy continued to cough and gasp as the phone rang once and was promptly greeted with “9-1-1 operator, for which city?”

“Calgary” I replied, immediately wondering if it was outsourced all of a sudden before resigning to the fact that it probably services all the surrounding communities too like Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore, Okotoks, etc.

“What’s the nature of your call?”

That was easy. I told him this guy was busy turning different colors of red and white, having problems breathing and complaining of chest pains. The dialogue went back and forth between myself, the 911 operator and as required the guy on the floor. I kept the door open waiting and watching for people to come by. Finally, after I already had confirmation from the 911 operator that the fire department was en route did the first guy show up and start dialling 911 with a cell phone. Seriously! WTF?!?!? He wasn’t my concern; it was that of the guy on the floor. I know his name, but I don’t want to release that as it still is a bit of a privacy matter. I want him to deal with his issues in private or public, but allow him that choice.

Building security quickly showed up, along with two of the guys team leaders. I sent one downstairs to greet the Calgary Fire Department when they arrived. Security was also on the radio with his colleague and confirmed that CFD was in the building and on their way up. The gave the guy some oxygen, checked blood pressure and listened to his lungs all while getting him to calm down and start breathing more of a natural rhythm. It wasn’t until they arrived the very nice guy at the 9-1-1 facility released me from the line…the other guy was let go pretty quickly once I mentioned to the operator we had multiple calls going in. All this happened in under 10 minutes…15 from the time the first guy came into the bathroom.

About 5 minutes later Calgary EMS showed up to further asses the patient. I’ll now call him a patient as they decided that they were going to take him to the hospital. CFD left and wished him luck after giving a very detailed briefing to the paramedics. It was easy for them to come in. Again, communication comes into play for life and death situations.

Burbank Rescue AmbulanceLong story short, EMS continued their assessment and loaded him on the gurney for transport and they left. A few things to note from the incident though that I thought would make sense to bring up:

  • Don’t leave anyone in duress alone. Open the door, scream for help, or call from the cell phone in your pocket.
  • As mentioned above, if you’re in duress, go to a very public, populated place. Someone will help you, I promise.
  • When I sent the guy to wait for CFD I got him to repeat back to me what was needed. I also told the operator the floor and area we were in the building in case the guy failed to return.
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Yes I said it three times but it’s vital. The three departments communicated to each other but they can only communicate what is given to them. Give it all. As much as you can. The 9-1-1 operator asked questions which I had to ask the guy. It was hard for him to answer, but I wasn’t going anywhere so had the time to wait. By taking that time it made EVERYONE’S job easier; even mine.

Now a quick bit about the guy. He was just diagnosed with asthma last week and had taken two puffs from his ventolin inhaler prior to my arrival with limited benefit. He had smoked for the last 10 years. He was only 25.

Today helped me to realize just how easily life can be taken away. I’m sure he’s fine, though I’m not sure right now but will update once I do. I’ve been calling 9-1-1 on a needed basis for almost the last 20 years (I’m only 32) starting with my dad having an asthma attack. I’d like to think I’m experienced in an area I’d rather not be. The Calgary 9-1-1 operator was by far the best I’ve had to deal with…so cut them some slack.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Steve Snodgrass, sfxeric style=”

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What makes a good 404 page?

In an effort to maintain a focus on usability and guest experience, I’m in the process of doing up a new 404 page for a site I’m sort of working on. The code to slap in the .htaccess is pretty simple and straight forward.

ErrorDocument 404

Once I get that done, it’s simple to make adjustments to the page. Now my task is to determine what makes a good 404 page. I’ve read in the past to integrate it with the site but I’ve also read the opposite. I also came across some extra inspiration from Smashing Magazine’s website. I don’t want to confuse the site guest thinking it’s actually a real page, or even worse, the page they were looking for. If I had a search for the site (which we don’t, but that’s another story) then I would definitely consider including that. Since I have PHP I can always try and see what exactly the user was looking for and make suggestions around that. And as a last resort I’ll be placing the call center number on there as well…just in case they need to actually talk to a person.

I’m curious though, what makes a good 404 page in your eyes?

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WestJet talks Twitter

It’s no secret the other week that WestJet jumped into the Social Media game officially re-activating it’s Twitter account. The first to go off was a Twitter only promo code used in conjunction with a contest offering followers a FREE flight from anywhere in Canada WestJet flies from, to anywhere in Canada where they fly.

Last week I managed to stumble across a few clips that aired on Saskatoon’s News Talk 650 – CKOM radio station. I’ve added them in for your listen below.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

I find it interesting that Mr. Bartrem indicates they took a unique approach using traditional media to get the new media noticed. A method that more companies will most likely exploit. In just over two weeks WestJet has more then doubled it’s follower account (currently sitting at 4,484). Still a far cry from Southwest Air or JetBlue.

On a separate note, last night JetBlue decided to begin its segregation plan and launched a new Twitter account for specific ‘Cheep’ deals (obviously a play on the word tweet).

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What’s your “Out of Office” say?

A few weeks ago I went on a vacation to Maui. And like every time I visit Maui it was truly beautiful and wonderful. So much so that I found my house but now need to figure out how to purchase it. In my absence from “the day job” I needed to setup an Out of Office alert as a courtesy to those who emailed me looking for me to do some work (like that would happen on vacation). Well it actually did with an early morning text message, but that’s a different story.

I was tired and bored of the “normal” Out of Office notifications and wanted to customize mine a bit. So here’s what I sent out.

Hey, you emailed me?

I’m currently Out of Office until Wednesday, April 22 soaking up the sun, sand, surf and golf on the island of Maui in the Pacific. Essentially I will have no access to email and phone. So for all matter related to WestJet Vacations, please don’t hesitate to contact Sean McXXXXXXXXX at or 403-5XX-XXXX…he’s looking forward to helping you out with your problem. Of course, he’s not a trained psychologist so you may not want to entirely take his advice or attempted prescribed cures.

If you don’t take his suggestions, then you might as well take a vacation to cure your woes. Check out the newly designed WestJet Vacations website at and let us know what you think. I spent way too much time working on it in lots of meetings, focus groups and of course my mind. That’s really why I need to go on vacation. My mind has already left, so now I’m trying to go find it. Did I mention I’m going to Maui? Enjoy your time without me and I’ll reply to any outstanding (but not mediocre) emails upon my return.



So that simple message got me thinking. Surely there are some GREAT Out of Office alerts floating around this thing we call the internet. I’m curious to know the content (and a little context) of some great messages you’ve received. Please leave them here.

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The Frog Prince

It was hard to say good bye from YWG to our little girl that would be spending the next few days with her grandparents. We were sure she would be taken great care of, but at only four months old it was our first time without her for a night…ever! Alas, we headed through security, hit the duty free shop for some Vodka and Gin and proceeded to wait at the gate for boarding. The flight itself was uneventful.

We arrived on time, in fact thanks to the great WestJet service we arrived early only to find ourselves stuck on the plane because U.S. customs wasn’t allowing us off until they were ready. I guess that makes sense, but seriously leaving us on the plane sucked but wasn’t the fault of WestJet we were told. We hopped a quick cab ride to the MGM Grand and were greeted promptly with an offer of assistance for our bags. They weren’t that heavy so we politely declined. We proceeded into the lobby where the smell of fresh roses hit our nose. Then it was check-in time and it went very smoothly. We were greeted by someone that escorted us to the desk and the agent was quick and knowledgeable too. Upstairs to the room to throw the bags in and chill for a bit and try some of that duty free we picked up.

We decided that it was Vegas and we needed to go for a walk since we were both starving. We headed down to the casino floor and began to walk. It wasn’t long before we got distracted by the sites and sounds and a quick sit at “The Frog Prince” turned into a few minutes. I took off to try my luck at Black Jack and before I knew it had blown through $20 – not hard to do on a $10 table. Back to the slot machine, the money was gone so it was off on the great quest of food. We found a McDonald’s right in the MGM Grand and cautiously had a few burgers to eat and then we decided to hit the strip. Always up for adventure we kept walking past the sign for the monorail and on to The Signature at MGM Grand. Well, we didn’t realize just how far we had walked and went to the lobby to inquire the easiest way to get to the strip. “Oh just hang a left, go through the gate, then hang another left and you’re almost there” we were told. So we walked. And we walked some more. And we walked even further. Finally we arrived at the strip only to realize how far we had already walked on very little sleep the night before. A sign of things to come no doubt.

We thought about heading the opposite direction on the strip but decided we should think about heading back to our room. We hit the 7-eleven on the strip to grab a couple of over sized Heineken and proceeded to walk back to the MGM Grand avoiding pick-pockets, gun slingers and gang members along the way. We didn’t actually see any of those, just artistic license to the story…well, they may have been there but like I said we didn’t see them. We got back to the hotel and crashed.

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