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Tips, questions, complaints: Spike in 911 calls during B.C. Amber Alert  

An EComm 911 spokesperson said calling 911 is not the appropriate thing to do for getting information about an emergency alert. File photo

When an inter-provincial Amber Alert was issued last Saturday, cellphones across B.C. suddenly began blaring the notification for two missing children.

Later that day, the alert was cancelled, with the 4-year-old and the 10-month-old being safely located in Kenora, Ont., near the Manitoba border around 3:30 p.m. PT.

A suspect was arrested, with calls to 911 doubling during a 30-minute span. Those calls included not only tips, but questions and complaints about the alert.

Read more: Northern B.C. Amber Alert cancelled, 2 missing children located safe in Ontario

“When the Amber Alert was issued on Saturday, we did see a spike,” said Kaila Butler, communications manager for E-Comm 911 in B.C.

“Normally, in a 30-minute span on a very similar Saturday afternoon, we would receive about 125 calls. During that period, we received close to 250.”

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Butler said it’s important to remember that when an Amber Alert or an emergency alert is issued, most of the directives are going to be included in the alert’s content.

“Whether that’s to take shelter or look out for this vehicle if there’s a child missing, which was the case of the Amber Alert,” said Butler, “the best thing that you can do is to take that moment to really read what the alert is guiding you to do.”

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Butler said E-Comm 911 realizes this is a hectic time, with a deluge of information, and receiving a sudden alert can be scary or confusing for some.

“But calling 911 is not the appropriate thing to do for getting information about an alert,” said Butler, noting E-Comm has seen similar patterns across the nation when other alerts are issued.

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E-Comm 911 says only dial 911 if you’re experiencing an emergency, or have critical information to share related to the alert.

“This helps us keep 9-1-1 lines free for anyone needing immediate assistance with police, fire or ambulance emergencies,” said E-Comm.

Information about emergency alerts can be found on the website EmergencyInfoBC.

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