First responders in B.C. got a surprising report all the way from Poland this week, after two climbers got caught in an avalanche near Alberta.
The climbers were up on White Horn Mountain in Mount Robson Provincial Park, on the Alberta border close to Jasper, on Monday when the avalanche hit.
BC Emergency Health Services spokesperson Shannon Miller said they had a satellite phone and called the Polish emergency number to ask for help.
“When they called the Polish emergency services, they called the Polish embassy in Ottawa, who called Ottawa emergency service, who then called BC Emergency Health Services,” said Miller.
After B.C. finally received the call at about 11:20 a.m., an air ambulance from Kamloops and a plane from Prince George were dispatched to the scene, and the Robson Valley Search and Rescue crew was notified. A BCEHS ground crew was also dispatched to the information centre at Mount Robson.
Miller said she didn’t know if the pair simply had no idea what B.C.’s emergency number was or if they were in too much shock.
“They’d just been hit by an avalanche, after all,” said Miller. “Both were in serious condition when they were airlifted out to the nearest trauma centre in Kamloops.”
Miller said that while it was “highly unusual” for B.C. emergency dispatchers to get a call from Poland, it seems to have worked out okay for the climbers.
“It’s good that they had the satellite phone and it did work, so I’d say it was highly successful.”
The climbers were lucky that B.C. has a centralized emergency dispatch system, she said, unlike Alberta which has a myriad of different contractors handling emergency calls in different areas of the province.
“Without an understanding of the geography, it would be hard to know who to call.”