NEWS RELEASE: Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week

E-Comm 9-1-1 call-takers and dispatchers call on the public to “help us help”

Vancouver, B.C. — Up until the moment when you have reason to call 9-1-1, many people may take emergency service call-takers and dispatchers for granted. They are the unsung heroes who in that moment of reaching out for safety and help suddenly become the most important people in your world.

In order to recognize the dedicated work of emergency call-takers, dispatchers, technology specialists and support personnel, the Province of British Columbia has declared April 8 – 15 as Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week. As part of the week’s celebrations, E-Comm – the regional emergency communications centre for southwest B.C. – is debunking its 9-1-1 call-takers’ top five myths to help better educate people about calling 9-1-1.

“We hope by exposing some of the most common 9-1-1 myths people will be better informed on how to use this important lifeline in the right way,” says Jody Robertson, E-Comm director of Corporate Communications. “It’s important for the public to remember that 9-1-1 is for police, fire, or medical emergencies when immediate action is required: someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress. Any misuse of the system diverts resources away from real emergencies.”

E-Comm’s Top Five 9-1-1 Myths

If you dial 9-1-1 from a cell phone the dispatch centre will know your exact location. 
FALSE: Unlike landline phones, cellular devices provide general location information only. The details we currently receive from wireless companies consist of basic latitudinal and longitudinal information which can be used to help determine the area from which the call originated. Although this is important information, it does not pinpoint a caller’s exact location. Callers are always the best source of information, especially during an emergency when time is of the essence. Always know your location including what city you are in, building or home addresses, cross streets or any other landmark information that will help emergency personnel find you.

The best thing to do if you accidentally dial 9-1-1 is to hang up as quickly as possible.
FALSE: If you dial 9-1-1 accidentally, stay on the line and speak with the call-taker. Do not hang up. If you do, our system will record your call as “abandoned” and our call-takers are required to call you back further tying up emergency lines.  And in circumstances where your location is known police will be sent to check on you. This diverts resources away from real emergencies and ties up call-takers who could be handling other calls for help. If you dial accidentally, the best thing you can do is stay on the line.

You must speak English to receive help from 9-1-1.
FALSE: E-Comm has a 24-hour interpretation service that can be accessed in less than a minute, with interpretation available in more than 170 languages. Teach your non-English speaking family and friends to learn the English word for the language they speak in the event an interpreter is needed. This will help speed up the process. It is also a good idea to teach the words “police”, “fire” and “ambulance” in English.

If you pre-program 9-1-1 into your phone you’ll be able to get through faster in case of an emergency.
FALSE: Never program 9-1-1 into any phone. We receive hundreds of unintended 9-1-1 calls every day from pocket dials to hang-ups, tying up emergency resources. Programming 9-1-1 into your phone causes accidental calls. Please keep your cell phone in a safe position when not in use and use a case/holster to store properly. You’re not going to forget the number and dialing three digits does not take long.

It’s fine to let kids play with old cell phones after you have cancelled your service contract.
FALSE: Never provide old cell phones to children to use as toys. Many people don’t realize that even if your phone is de-commissioned it is still able to dial 9-1-1. It is important to teach children to use 9-1-1 properly and remind them the service is for emergencies only.  E-Comm provides many educational materials, free-of-charge through its web site ( to help parents and caregivers educate children around the proper use of 9-1-1.

 “Our 9-1-1 call-takers and dispatchers are highly trained, dedicated professionals who will get you the help you need,” explains Robertson. “All of these misconceptions have the potential to interfere with their life-saving efforts.”

E-Comm answers close to one-million 9-1-1 calls each year for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, Whistler, Squamish and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (south). For tips on using 9-1-1 and more information about E-Comm visit or follow E-Comm’s Twitter feed @ecomm911_info.


Media contact:

Jody Robertson
E-Comm 9-1-1
604-215-4956 or 604-640-1342 (pager)
[email protected]