Fraser Health issued an alert Tuesday, following a spike in reported overdose deaths in Surrey. File photo

Surrey overdose spike caught by fire department ‘cluster’ tracker

Fraser Health issues warning after at least eight overdoses were reported in a four-hour period Tuesday

An overdose tracking tool out of Surrey’s fire department is the reason health authorities caught wind of a spike this week.

Fraser Health issued the alert in Surrey Tuesday (March 27), following reports of at least eight drug overdoses in the city between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“The information that came to us, came through the fire department through the app, and we then triggered the alert,” Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma told the Now-Leader.

It’s said Surrey’s fire department is leading Canada’s charge in saving drug overdose victims with the new technology, which tracks overdose “clusters” and warns emergency service when a bad batch of opioids hits the street.

If in any four-hour period three overdoses occur within a square kilometre, this is flagged, an alert is sent to senior officers in the fire department, the chief medical health officer of Fraser Health, and help is on the way. If there’s a “cluster,” leaflets warning about bad drugs will also be distributed in the area.

SEE MORE: New tool helping save lives in Surrey drug overdose crisis

When the program was launched last summer, Surrey fire chief Len Garis said it was a first for the country.

The city, with help from GINQO, developer of Qlik business intelligence software, is mining real-time data collected through dispatch calls to send resources where they’re needed.

Garis noted that 17 people overdosed in Surrey during a 72-hour period in December 2016. Firefighters, Fraser Health, police and paramedics were left “scrambling,” he said. “The situation was quite appalling and quite stressful.”

The program launched on June 27, 2017 and Garis said this technology is “absolutely” helping to save lives. Despite the common belief most overdoses happen on the streets, he said, “The lion’s share of people are dying in their homes.”

The success of this program is drawing the attention of health officials in North America, he added.

Back in Surrey, the alert sent out this week said that no substance has been identified in the recent overdoses, but that “purple and pink down substances” had been identified in connection with overdoses in other cities.

Cell phone alerts were circulated shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27 targeting both drug users and those who work in prevention and harm reduction, who were asked to “offer naloxone kits to clients.”

Alerts said that symptoms of Tuesdays overdoses include loss of consciousness, overdoses involving seizures, extreme muscle rigidity and a high risk of overdose even from smoking.

Fraser Health urges drug users not to use alone, wherever possible; to make plans to have someone check on them if they were to use alone; to stagger use with friends so that someone would be able to respond if needed; to test drugs by using small amounts first and going slowly; and to not use with alcohol or other drugs.

In case of an overdose, people are instructed to call 9-1-1 immediately, to open airways and give breaths, and to give naloxone (Narcan) if they are carrying it.

With files from Tom Zytaruk

Just Posted

Man, 24, charged with nine sexual offences in Abbotsford and Mission

Alleged victim, who he met online, is under the age of 16

Mission filmmaker tackles topic of youth and the social media epidemic

Kim Laureen teams up with her daughter to create documentary film Selfless

Mission to take a closer look at clothing donation bins

Recent deaths around the country have caused some communities to ban the bins for safety concerns

Live demos and stunt shows part of Vancouver Motorcycle Show

Annual event returns to Tradex in Abbotsford from Jan. 18 to 20

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

VIDEO: U.S. Congress to probe whether Trump told lawyer Cohen to lie

At issue is a BuzzFeed News report that about negotiations over a Moscow real estate project

Rookie Demko backstops Canucks to 4-3 win over Sabres

Young Vancouver goalie makes 36 saves to turn away Buffalo

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

UPDATE: Injured firefighter in stable condition

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Book a ride on a driverless shuttle in Surrey or Vancouver

Automated vehicle demos are being offered, as the two cities plan pilot projects with the shuttles

Heavy snowfall expected on the Coquihalla

Snowfall warning in effect for the Coquihalla Highway, from Hope to Merritt

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

Missing man from Crowsnest Pass could be in Lower Mainland

58-year-old Stuart David Duff was last seen on Jan. 6, 2019.

Most Read