E-Comm, the 9-1-1 answer point for Metro Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish and the Sunshine Coast, receives hundreds of accidental or “phantom” calls each day, prompting the service to reach out to the community through an education campaign.
“Our call-takers receive many, many calls where there is no one speaking on the line, but they can hear background noise. Until they can establish that the call is indeed an unintended call – for example, a cell phone activated in someone’s purse or backpack, or a child who is playing with a cordless phone at home – they have to stay on the line or call back until they are satisfied no one needs assistance. This takes valuable resources away from real emergencies,” says Jody Robertson, E-Comm’s director of corporate communications.
E-Comm recommends never pre-programming 9-1-1 on any telephone. “It takes a split second to dial 9-1-1 and pre-programming is the cause of many accidental calls, advises Robertson. “Many users are not even aware they have called us.”
Cell phone users are also asked to take care on how they carry and stow their phones, as most models will allow a call to 9-1-1 to override the keypad lock function.
Landline telephones are also a source of accidental calls, many of them coming pre-programming 9-1-1 or through children playing with telephones.
The campaign, which is running currently on radio and in local newspapers in Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast, is part of E-Comm’s ongoing safety awareness efforts.
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Tips for Consumers
- Do not pre-program 9-1-1 into any telephone, as this may lead to accidental calls.
- If you do call 9-1-1 by mistake, please stay on the line and tell the call-taker.
- Carry and stow cell phones carefully in purses, backpacks, in a pocket or in the car. Even a user-locked keypad can dial 9-1-1 on many phones.
- Teach children why and how to call 9-1-1. All phones are different, so be sure to give specific instructions that include how to activate the phone and how to send a call.
- Never give children old cell phones to play with. Many deactivated phones can still dial through to 9-1-1.
- Consider your circumstances carefully when looking at giving up your landline telephone for alternate technology. This may not be the best option, particularly if there are young children or elderly family members in the home. Be aware that cell phones do not provide location, nor do many VoiP services. Check with the VoiP service provider before you subscribe.
Tips for Using 9-1-1
- Dial 9-1-1 in emergency situations that require police, fire department or ambulance when immediate action is required: a life or property is in jeopardy/danger or a crime is in progress.
- Listen carefully, speak clearly and try to remain calm. While call-takers are asking you questions, they are relaying vital information electronically to the dispatchers and the emergency personnel on their way to help you.
- Non-emergency numbers for all emergency services are listed in the front of the telephone directory.
- E-Comm is the regional 9-1-1 answer point for southwest British Columbia, managing more than one million calls each year.
- E-Comm provides dispatch service for 23 police and fire departments throughout the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Whistler/Howe Sound.
- E-Comm also manages the region’s interoperable radio system used by police, fire and ambulance.