Don’t let non-emergencies compete with real ones

One in five 9-1-1 calls for police isn’t an emergency, according to estimates by E-Comm, B.C.’s largest emergency communications centre.

To help keep 9-1-1 lines free for emergencies that require immediate action from police, E-Comm is conducting a public awareness campaign focused on helping people better recognize when to call 9-1-1 and when to call the non-emergency line.

“9-1-1 is for those who need assistance right away – their health, safety or property is in immediate jeopardy, or a crime is in progress,” says Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm’s Manager of Corporate Communications.

Some recent examples of police matters that should have been reported on the non-emergency line, not 9-1-1:

• Vehicle break-in that happened three days earlier
• Motor vehicle crash with no injuries and the vehicle was driveable
• A break-in that occurred 90 minutes earlier, with no suspect on scene and no one at risk

In 2016, E-Comm managed more than 387,000 emergency calls for 17 police agencies in Metro Vancouver. It’s estimated that approximately 77,000 were non-emergencies.

“Before we ask a 9-1-1 caller to hang-up and call their local non-emergency number, we have to take time to assess whether the situation is an actual emergency,” explains E-Comm police call-taker Jefferey Ching, who received the call for the three-day-old vehicle break-in. “My caller certainly needed to report that break-in to police, but the non-emergency line is a better choice so that if someone calls 9-1-1 for a true emergency, they get through as soon as possible. ”

Bradley adds that if anyone is in doubt if their situation is an emergency, they should dial 9-1-1 first. “Generally speaking, if there is no immediate danger, there is a significant time delay and no suspect on scene, a 9-1-1 call-taker will refer the caller to the local non-emergency line so a report can be taken without tying up 9-1-1.”

“My caller was great and understood my reasons for needing to call non-emergency,” says Ching. “I hope people will help us by taking the opportunity to learn more about the differences and to keep their local non-emergency numbers on hand if need be.”

Non-emergency numbers within E-Comm’s service area are available at nonemergency.ca.