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.
If you need police assistance that is not of an emergency nature (for example, your situation is a valid police matter but does not require immediate attention), please use your local 10-digit non-emergency numbers. Find those numbers online: non-emergency numbers.
If you are unsure if your situation is an emergency, dial 9-1-1. Emergency call takers will help determine if immediate action is required or if you should hang-up and dial the non-emergency line.
To save the following tips to keep on your fridge / near a phone, download our printable information card.
Tips for making your non-emergency call
- Avoid peak times – the busiest time for non-emergency calls is during the 9-5pm time frame
- If possible, try calling in the early morning or evening to make your report as it tends to be less busy during those times
- Be ready with all relevant information when you call about your situation such as your exact address, driver’s licence number or vehicle licence plate number
- Have a pen and paper ready when you call
Examples of when to call 9-1-1
- Events that involve an immediate threat to a person or property: screams for help (domestic dispute), attacks, gunshots, fires and/or smoke, hazardous goods incidents, downed power lines, car accidents with injuries or any other medical emergency that is a threat to life or health
- An in-progress crime such as theft, break and enter or vandalism (if there is a suspect on scene) or to report an impaired driver
- A serious crime that has just occurred (sexual or other assault, robbery, child abduction)
- A suspicious circumstance that may indicate an imminent criminal act (prowler, suspicious person, vandal)
Examples of non-emergency calls
- Reporting a crime with no suspect (example: theft of a licence plate or bicycle)
- Reporting a crime with suspect, but the suspect is not on the scene (example: fraud)
- Reporting a serious crime with suspect, but with a lengthy delay (example: assault that occurred “last night” at a bar)
- Non-emergency in progress (example: noisy party)
- On-going crime issues or crimes that are not in-progress (examples: graffiti or ongoing drug dealing with no suspect on scene)
- A suspicious circumstance that may indicate an ongoing criminal activity (example: suspected drug lab)
See our Emergency vs. non-emergency calls brochure for more information on when to call 9-1-1. This brochure is also available in the following languages:
Français (French), 中文 (Chinese), Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese), 한국어 (Korean), ਪੰਜਾਬੀ (Punjabi), Español (Spanish), فارسی (Farsi).
Examples of non-police matters and who to call instead
- Contact DriveBC for general road conditions and closure questions
- Contact BC Hydro for questions regarding power outages and restoration
- Contact your municipality for dumped garbage, ongoing traffic concerns, including lights or questions about local bylaws – if there is a concern for public safety, please call non-emergency
- For civil complaints: disputes between citizens about non-criminal matters such as property boundaries, rent payments, contract terms, fines, reputation etc. contact the appropriate governing office (i.e. municipality, BC Residential Tenancy Branch, Government of BC, trusted legal advisor)
- Contact the BCSPCA and/or Department of Fisheries and Oceans for concerns related to animals that do not cause concern for public safety (i.e. molting seals)
Take a moment to look up your local non-emergency number and keep it in a visible place close to your phone, or add it directly to your cellphone’s list of contacts.
Remember, calling 9-1-1 for a non-emergency situation ties up important lifelines meant for people or property in immediate jeopardy or when a crime is in progress.
If you call 9-1-1 for a non-emergency matter, it will not result in a faster response as emergency operators will not take non-emergency reports on 9-1-1. Please also note that 9-1-1 call takers cannot transfer your call to the non-emergency line. You will be asked to hang-up and dial the ten-digit non-emergency number directly. Help us keep 9-1-1 lines free for emergencies that require immediate response by looking up your local non-emergency number.