If you know it’s not an emergency, hang up and just deal with it.
E-Comm has released its annual list of the top 10 worst calls to 911 over the past year and some are true head scratchers that make you wonder if the caller, well, used any common sense at all before dialling.
“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, who answered the top call on this year’s list of nuisance dials.
“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.”
The list has been an annual tradition since 2013 but a new trend found in 2019 is what appears to be an increase in the number of callers who are aware they’re not in an emergency situation but call 911 anyway.
The top 10 worst calls received by E-Comm in 2019 are:
1. To complain hotel parking spot was too small
2. To complain hair salon didn’t style their hair properly
3. To complain their neighbour was vacuuming late at night
4. Because they were upset the coin laundry machine didn’t have enough water
5. To enquire why traffic was so bad
6. To request police bring a shovel to dig their car out of the snow in front of their house
7. Because police are being ‘too loud’ responding to an emergency and requesting that they should come back in the morning
8. To get information about water restrictions
9. To report a broken ATM machine
10. Because a gas station wouldn’t let them use the washroom
A compilation audio clip released by E-Comm also shares some of the responses call takers provide when handling nuisance calls.
“911 is for life or death emergencies only. So, I mean, if you can’t get your car out of the snow, then maybe take the bus or SkyTrain to wherever you’re going – OK?” said one call taker in response to a caller who requested police personally shovel their car out of the snow in front of their home.
E-Comm protocol requires that each call must be treated as an emergency until the call taker has ruled out all possibilities, which means call takers are often tied up investigating nuisance calls for much longer than needed before they can take on a legitimate emergency call.
“Although these calls may seem absurd at the surface, our call-takers must take the time to investigate each one to make sure there isn’t a real emergency before directing them elsewhere. That takes time away from helping those in crisis,” said E-Comm spokesperson Jasmine Bradley.
E-Comm handles the majority of the province’s 911 calls and recorded more than 1.6 million 911 calls in 2019.