A busy period for Urgences Sante was complicated over the weekend by an outage that paralyzed the dispatch centre.

It took almost a day to restore, causing some delays in ambulance response time during an extreme cold snap that resulted in an increase of emergency calls.

The incident began just before midnight on Saturday, when dispatchers lost contact with callers on the line with emergencies.

Urgences Sante is investigating why the generators, which would usually kick in, did not, forcing them to move to a ‘Plan C’ on Sunday.

Officials decided to move dispatchers to Urgences Sante's back-up dispatch centre, requiring them to write down location information without aid of GPS, then relay all of it to paramedics using the radio system.

The back-up system delayed calls somewhat, but Urgences Sante said it didn't lead to any significant delays or problems over the 20-hour period the system was down. Chief of Operations Benoit Garneau said the all systems were fully operational by early Monday morning. 

They also said that during a short window, the dispatch system was completely down with no backup in place.

“When the failure happened, we lost the calls, so we just called them back. Nothing (bad) happened, fortunately, and we were able to go to their places and take them to the hospital,” said Garneau.

Garneau said it has been especially busy over the holidays in part because of the cold.

Urgences Sante typically receives 1,000 calls a day.