Whether it was confirming the time or wondering if having a trampoline is illegal during the pandemic, some British Columbians wasted first responders’ time this year with non-emergency complaints.
E-Comm, B.C.’s 911 dispatch centre, has released its annual list of the top 10 most absurd calls, meant to educate the public about when it is – and isn’t – appropriate to call 911.
In addition to dealing with what the agency said are some “familiar consumer complaints” in 2020, dispatchers dealt with plenty of pandemic-related inquiries.
But non-emergency calls divert critical resources from people in real emergencies.
“Calling 911 to ask a question or report a consumer complaint may seem harmless enough,” said Megan McMath, an E-Comm call taker.
“But, what people may not realize is that we need to treat every call as an emergency, until we can determine otherwise. That means that every moment we spend responding to general questions, concerns or complaints takes away from our priority – helping people who need help right away.”
Here are E-Comm’s top 10 reasons to not call 911 in 2020:
- Complaining that their food delivery driver did not deliver their meal
- Enquiring if there is a full lockdown for COVID-19
- Wondering if having a trampoline is illegal during COVID-19
- Asking for assistance to apply for CERB
- Complaining that the mattress they had purchased second-hand was more soiled than advertised
- Reporting that their bank card was stuck in the ATM
- Reporting their neighbour for smoking in a non-smoking building
- Enquiring about how to enter a career in law enforcement
- Confirming the time
- Asking for help because they were locked out of their car
Kaila Butler, a senior communications specialist with E-Comm, said that while the agency understands people are “frustrated and worried” about COVID-19, “general questions and complaints about the pandemic don’t belong on 911.”
Instead of calling 911 for concerns about public health violations, E-Comm said British Columbians should contact their local bylaw office or police non-emergency line.
In Richmond, city bylaws can be reached at 604-276-4345.
If you feel you might have COVID-19, call 811 to assess whether you need testing. For non-medical information about COVID-19, call 1-888-COVID-19 or visit bccdc.ca.
E-Comm handles 99 per cent of B.C.’s 911 calls, amounting to more than 1.7 million calls so far in 2020.