E-Comm urges people not to call 911 over cold food

METRO VANCOUVER — Most people are taught at a very young age that the only reason to call the numbers 9-1-1 on their phone is when a clear and present emergency is taking place that requires immediate attention. Unfortunately, some people don’t seem to be getting the message.

For instance, these kinds of conversations are taking place on a disturbingly regular basis over Christmas.

"911, what’s your emergency?"

"Is today a stat holiday?"

In an effort to draw attention to the impact on emergency services, E-Comm – B.C.’s largest 9-1-1 public-safety answer point – released a list of its top 10 reasons to not call the emergency line.

“Our staff are trained to treat every call that comes through our centre as a valid emergency, until they determine otherwise, no matter what the circumstance,” said E-Comm spokesperson Jody Robertson. “Even if the reason for the call seems absurd on the surface, 9-1-1 call-takers need to take time to determine exactly what’s going on and whether someone genuinely needs help. Calls about internet access and cold food are a serious drain on emergency resources.” 

Throughout the year E-Comm call-takers field calls that don’t belong on the 9-1-1 lines. This year’s top reason not to call 9-1-1? Complaints that Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop isn’t working.

Top 10 reasons to not call 9-1-1:

  1. Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop isn’t working

  2. "What’s the fine for jay walking?"

  3. Pizza not fresh; wants a replacement slice

  4. “What’s the number for my travel agency?”

  5. Caller phoned 9-1-1 to ask for a taxi referral

  6. “Is today a stat holiday?”

  7. Food they ordered is cold

  8. Wants help finding lost glasses

  9. Home Internet is not working

  10. “What’s the date today?”

“We’re here to help people with real emergencies,” says E-Comm 9-1-1 call-taker Warner Yang, recipient of this year’s top nuisance call. “If someone calls 9-1-1 about internet problems that means I’m not available to help someone who really needs it.”

An estimated 2,600 calls to 9-1-1 were placed to E-Comm every single day in 2014 and while the majority of those calls are responsible, Robertson says too many do not meet the true test of an emergency: calls for police, fire or a medical situation that requires immediate action because someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress.

“We’re reaching out today to remind the public that 9-1-1 is a life-line, not an information line,” Robertson added. “We hope our message that 9-1-1 call-takers cannot answer questions about how long power outages will last, when the clocks turn back, or other non-emergency questions, will help reduce these kinds of calls and keep the lines open for real emergencies.”

Dropping from the Top 10 in 2013 include such calls as "my son won’t give me the remote control." [Link is a PDF]

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