'I have never seen a crisis of this magnitude;' Emergency call centre working to help Canadians come home
Courtesy: Global Affairs
OTTAWA -- Global Affairs’ Emergency Response and Watch Centre in Ottawa say it is working 24/7 to help stranded Canadians return home safely.
The centre is at the Global Affairs headquarters at Lester B. Pearson building on Sussex Drive. Hundreds of volunteers and staff are part of a call centre that is answering phone calls and emails from Canadians abroad trying to get home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Incident commander Nicolas Cloutier says he has never seen a global emergency like this before.
“In my experience I have never seen a crisis of this magnitude. In terms of the work load that is in front of us,” said Cloutier on Sunday.
“We are facilitating Canadians all over the world. Usually we are focused on one country or region but now we have to be focused everywhere at the same time.”
The centre receives 2,000 to 3,000 calls a day and thousands of emails.
Catherine Belanger works at the call centre and says she “has never been this busy in this position in this role before.”
Belandersays every day is different. “It’s changing day-to-day as countries put in stricter measure or flights become less available… India has been a big one in the past few days, and the cruise ships that are affected."
In addition, how and where volunteers work in the building has also changed. Belanger says “we are extremely spread out which is not typical for us in our response. If I think back on the hurricane response... we worked in tight quarters. Right now we are spread all around the building to make sure we are spread out in accordance to (public health recommendations).”
Thousands more Canadians still remain abroad and staff like Belanger says they will continue to works as hard as possible to help them come home.
According to the Government of Canada, Canadians can contact the nearest Government of Canada office or Global Affairs Canada's 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 (collect calls are accepted where available) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.