Gabriolans calling the Gabriola RCMP detachment non-emergency line will now hear more than a recorded message on the other end of the line – at least on Mondays through Thursdays from 8 am to 3:30.
After a year without an office administrator, an actual human being will be answering the phone at the RCMP station – temporarily for now, but hopefully permanently in a few months. That’s because Petra, whose last name protocol requires should not be publicised, has been seconded to fill the position on a temporary basis until someone is hired for the fulltime permanent position.
And it appears Petra is to thank for that secondment. At a Tuesday interview at the Gabriola detachment, she said she was, while in her fulltime position at Nanaimo RCMP dispatch, “communicating with Vancouver and Victoria via email, and I just put it out there that it would be awesome if they seconded someone like myself from the radio room to work over here and bing, bang, boom here I am”.
“They said that the position has been vacant for so long”, Petra said, “and they’re desperate to have someone, so even though it’s putting the Operations Communications Centre (OCC) on a shortage, they said that I could do this”. Not only is the new job “an awesome opportunity to learn more”, she added, “from day one I realised I want to stay!”
Unfortunately, Petra said, she missed the deadline for the competition for the position. She said there will be a fulltime person coming in, but wasn’t sure when. “I’ve been told I’d be here for a minimum of three months, maybe five”, Petra said, “it could even be longer depending on who is selected, and security checks and stuff”. She said there would probably not be a gap in coverage between her secondment and whoever takes the position fulltime.
Petra said she has been working in the Nanaimo OCC since 1992. She said before that she worked for the Vancouver Police Department.
The Nanaimo OCC is where all the after-hours Gabriola calls are fielded, Petra said, “so I’ve spoken to Gabriola citizens for a long time”. She said when she is in the Gabriola office, all non-emergency calls (250-247-8333) will come to the Gabriola detachment. She said when she is not in, the lines are switched to Nanaimo. So if Gabriolans need to talk to an actual human being, rather than leaving a message, “there is a recording”, she said, “and all callers have to do is stay on the line until the end and somebody in the OCC will be picking that call up”.
She said people may also leave a message and she will pick it up in the morning, but “if it’s Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, and you want somebody to get back to you that day or the next day then you can stay on the line and wait until the OCC picks it up”.
“A lot of people do phone the regular number when it’s actually an emergency”, Petra added, which is why the OCC pickup option is there.
She said the 911 emergency number will continue to operate as normal.
“Oh it’s home!”, Petra exclaimed in response to how she feels about working here. “My very first training day – which was last Tuesday – by the end of the day I said to (Corporal Trevor MacKay) ‘this feels like home!’ It just felt so right”. She said she loves the ferry ride over, and the lack of traffic, and the walk up the hill from the ferry “gets my blood pumping – it is a unique atmosphere. When I go back to Nanaimo it almost feels like I’m in the middle of Vancouver”.
Gabriolans have been “so welcoming”, she added. “I know it’s been frustrating for everybody for a long time, but hopefully I can make it better for the time I’m here, and get things working like they should again”. She said she knew MacKay is also anxious to for this to happen “because he knows it’s been tough on everybody – including the (RCMP) members”.
There is a lot of catch-up to do in the middle of learning how to do a new job, she said, and asked that Gabriolans “please be gentle with me, and I’ll do my best”, while she learns it. She added that the “admin. side” of the job is “just awesome” because it’s so diverse. “I’m having fun learning”, she said.
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