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911 misdials not slowing down in Saskatchewan

Watch above: Every year, thousands of calls are received at the province’s 911 call centres. Meaghan Craig finds out how many of them are misdials, nuisance or hang-ups and what kind of problems they create.

SASKATOON – Calling 19 times in two hours has landed one 28-year-old woman in some hot water with a $1,000 fine. On March 6, Saskatoon police say they responded to the woman’s 911 call and upon arrival could not find any evidence of an attempted break and enter as she had reported.

Over a dozen calls later, by the same woman, within a two-hour window and police issued her a ticket under the Emergency 911 System Act.

READ MORE: Hefty fine for Saskatoon woman misusing 911

It’s an extreme case but officials say the number of calls placed to 911 that aren’t emergencies is getting out of control.

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More than 300,000 calls are made to 911 in Saskatchewan every year with officials saying the number of misdials, nuisance or hang-ups are on the rise as smartphone use surges.

“We would suggest that people put on the screen lock so that doesn’t occur but in the event that it does happen or you misdailed on your landline stay on the call,” said Duane McKay, executive director and fire commissioner emergency management and fire safety for the Government of Saskatchewan.

“As soon as we can determine that there is no emergency it saves us having to dial back and if we can get you it saves us having to send a police officer out to find you.”

Depending on the kind of emergency a person is having, McKay explained that there are some cases where 911 is dialed and the call cannot continue. Interference can play a role but so can domestic abuse.

So just how bad is the problem? Misdials account for 16 to 20 per cent of all 911 calls in the province.

  • 2013: 313,191 calls were made, 50,464 calls or 16 per cent were misdials, nuisance calls or hang-ups.
  • 2014: 312,031 calls were made, 58,080 calls or 18 per cent were misdials, nuisance calls or hang-ups.
  • January, 2015:  24,222 calls were made, 4,542 calls or 18 per cent were misdials, nuisance calls or hang-ups.

The rates are in line with the national average but are still substantial, explained McKay who would like to see a decline.

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“When people misdial or purposely use 911 for anything other than an emergency it takes all of those same resources to deal with an emergency (as it does) to deal with these other calls in fact  sometimes it adds to the work load,”remarked McKay.

“If someone hangs up then we need to dial back and wait for someone to answer the call and if no one answers again because it’s an emergency number, we’ll notify the police and then they’ll have to respond to see what’s actually going on.”

McKay says officials recognize that misdials happen but remind people to lock their screens on cellphones and teach children when to use 911 and when not to.

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