Vancouver, B.C. —It’s day one of 9-1-1 Awareness Week in British Columbia and the regional emergency communication centre for southwest B.C. – E-Comm – reports accidental, non-emergency and general information calls continue to swamp call-takers.
“People might be surprised to know we receive hundreds of accidental calls every day,” says E-Comm spokeswoman Jody Robertson. “These calls come from cell phones for the most part and have the potential for getting in the way of real emergency calls.”
As part of awareness week, the centre is asking for help from cell phone owners by making sure they store their devices carefully (e.g. not carrying loosely in a purse, back pocket or knapsack where keys can be accidentally pressed), and to not pre-program 9-1-1 into any phone. Doing these two things will help reduce accidental calls. The public can also help by staying on the line and not hanging up if they dial 9-1-1 accidentally.
But accidental calls are not the only issue. The centre reports that callers are also using 9-1-1 to ask general questions regarding everything from power outages to traffic updates to when clocks should be turned back.
“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,” says Robertson. “9-1-1 is not an information line and we’re imploring people not to use this important lifeline in this way.”
Recently an E-Comm 9-1-1 call-taker even reported that an irate fast-food customer dialed 9-1-1 to complain that her chicken sandwich wasn’t up to snuff. “We’re here to help people when they need it most,” explains Roxana Higgins, a seven-year police call-taking veteran. “It can be frustrating to receive calls like this because while they’re complaining about a refund, someone in trouble could need me.”
During Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week, which runs April 8-15, E-Comm is reaching out to the community to recognize the contribution of 9-1-1 professionals who work behind the scenes to support emergency response and to raise awareness about accidental calls, non-emergency calls and “knowing your location”—three key areas where the public can have a major impact. It’s also asking residents to follow its new Twitter feed, @ecomm911_info, for need-to-know information about 9-1-1 service, emergency info, and tips for helping to keep the emergency system as efficient as possible on a day-to-day basis and in the event of a major crisis.
E-Comm answers more than one million 9-1-1 calls each year for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler, Squamish and the southern portion of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. For tips on using 9-1-1 and more information about E-Comm visit www.ecomm911.ca
Media contact: Jody Robertson 604-215-4956
Additional background and data:
- E-Comm will be tweeting regularly under the #911awareness hashtag during Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week. Media note: news releases and other info of media interest from E-Comm will disseminated through our Twitter handle @ecomm911_info – please follow us.
- As the first point of contact between emergency services and those who need help, call-takers and dispatchers focus their efforts on collecting, prioritizing and disseminating significant and crucial information to responders en route and on-scene at emergency events.
- The province of British Columbia has proclaimed April 8-15 Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week in honour of the report agents, call-takers, and dispatchers who are “a calm voice for people in crisis and the eyes and ears of responders until they arrive on scene.”
- The proclamation also recognizes the technical and support staff of emergency services for their behind-the-scenes support of frontline call-takers and dispatchers (a copy of the proclamation is available at ecomm911.ca)
- Five E-Comm staff members are currently featured in an education campaign-they are residents of Port Coquitlam, Surrey and Vancouver.
- E-Comm received 1,031,326 calls to 9-1-1 in 2010 (70% of 9-1-1 calls were directed to police; 24% were directed to ambulance and 6% were directed to fire agencies)
- 55% of 9-1-1 calls are now placed from cell phones (567,000 in 2010)
- Approximately 2,800 calls a day are placed to 9-1-1; E-Comm conservatively estimates 200 accidental calls each day