A too-small parking spot. A bad haircut. Police being “too loud” when responding to an emergency.
Every year, British Columbia’s 911 dispatch centre, E-Comm, releases its top 10 most ridiculous calls that are not an emergency. It’s an attempt to educate the public about when you should – and shouldn’t – call 911.
The 911 service is for life or death situations only, but dispatchers say that this year they noticed an emerging trend of callers who knew their situation wasn’t an emergency, but called 911 anyway to get general information.
At the top spot this year is the caller who complained about a hotel parking spot that was too small. Next is the bad hair styling job, followed by a complaint about a neighbour’s late night vacuuming.
Callers were also upset about a coin laundry machine that didn’t have enough water, asked why traffic is so bad, and asked police to come shovel their car out of snow.
Some people asked questions that are better answered by other public information services, like DriveBC, a website the province’s Ministry of Transportation runs to inform the public about traffic conditions.
Others, like a question about water restrictions E-Comm dispatchers received, should be directed towards municipalities.
The list of top 10 calls was rounded out by a report of a broken ATM, and a complaint about a gas station that wouldn’t let the caller use its washroom.
Even though the calls appear to be ridiculous, E-Comm dispatchers need to stay on the call until they’ve established there isn’t an actual emergency. For example, a woman in Ohio called a 911 dispatcher earlier this year and pretended to order a pizza, when she actually needed police to respond to domestic violence in her home.
Kaila Butler, a communications specialist with E-Comm, said the dispatch centre doesn’t recommend callers use ruses like the pizza call, but dispatchers are trained to listen to background noises and ascertain whether something more serious is going on.
That means that each truly frivolous call takes up valuable time when dispatchers could be dealing with actual emergencies.