As 2019 draws to a close, British Columbia’s emergency dispatchers are once again reminding the public that people should only call 911 in the case of a genuine emergency.
It’s a statement that should be obvious, but E-Comm says every year its dispatchers are bombarded with plenty of inappropriate calls, many of them bordering on the ridiculous.
To drive the point home, the agency releases an annual list of the top 10 most absurd calls made to 911 in B.C.
And as in previous years, 2019 was no stranger to over-the-top silly calls, including a trend towards people using the service to ask questions, a task better suited to, say, Google.
Here are E-Comm’s 10 worst calls of 2019:
- To complain hotel parking spot was too small
- To complain hair salon didn’t style their hair properly
- To complain their neighbour was vacuuming late at night
- Because they were upset the coin laundry machine didn’t have enough water
- To inquire why traffic was so bad
- To request police bring a shovel to dig their car out of the snow in front of their house
- Because police are being ‘too loud’ responding to an emergency and requesting that they should come back in the morning
- To get information about water restrictions
- To report a broken ATM machine
- Because a gas station wouldn’t let them use the washroom
E-Comm says calling 911 when emergency service is not actually needed ties up its call takers, who should be helping people in life-or-death situations.
“Sometimes, it feels like people may have forgotten that the reason to call 911 is to get help in a life or death situation,” said Chelsea Brent, the call taker who took the call about a parking space being too small.
“I take a lot of 911 calls where ‘I know this isn’t an emergency’ are the first words out of the caller’s mouth. But when I’m answering calls that aren’t an emergency, it means I’m not available for someone else who really does need critical help.”
E-Comm says even when it appears on the surface that the call isn’t an emergency, its call takers are duty-bound to take the time to verify each one to ensure it isn’t actually a real emergency before referring the caller elsewhere.
E-Comm handles about 99 per cent of B.C.’s 911 calls, amounting to more than 1.6 million communications in 2019.