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Pandemic shifts subject, but non emergency calls to 911 still a danger: dispatcher


December 31, 2020
The Canadian Press

(CP) VANCOUVER – The dispatcher that handles most of British Columbia’s 911 calls says COVID-19 gave a different twist to some calls this year, but E-Comm’s annual list of nuisance callers reveals little change elsewhere.

In an effort to remind the public that 911 should only be dialed in an emergency, E-Comm has released its list of the top-10 nuisance calls of 2020.

The dispatcher says inquiries such as the number-one-ranked complaint about missing food deliveries or the second-ranked call about a possible COVID-19 lockdown probably wouldn’t have made previous nuisance lists.

Even the third-ranked question about the legality of trampolines during COVID-19 would have been inconceivable one year ago.

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But E-Comm officials say those calls and others about a stuck banking card, smoking in restricted areas or inquiries about the time are all inappropriate because they don’t involve immediate risk to life or property.

E-Comm dispatcher Megan McMath says general complaints to the emergency line that aren’t police, fire or ambulance matters, divert critical resources from those in real emergencies.

“What people may not realize is that we need to treat every call as an emergency, until we can determine otherwise,” she says in the statement released Wednesday.

“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.”

E-Comm has handled more than 1.7 million 911 calls to its two centres on Vancouver Island and in east Vancouver this year.

The organization is the first point of contact for 911 callers in 25 regional districts in B.C., and provides dispatch services for more than 70 police agencies and fire departments across the province.

 


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