When NOT To Call 9-1-1

Every day in cities across North America, dozens of people call 911 for routine, emergency or dangerous situations relating to accidents, healthcare problems and unforeseen circumstances.

In fact, dispatchers at BC Ambulance Service answered more than 394,000 9-1-1 calls last year alone.

While many of those calls involved life-threatening situations such as cardiac arrests, childbirths and motor vehicle incidents, the list below demonstrates the ridiculous nature of some callers.

  • I think my house is infested with fleas. Can someone come and check it out?
  • I can’t get through to my cell provider. Can you help me?
  • My husband is driving me crazy. I need you to take him away.
  • I need you to get hold of my doctor for me -- the office is closed.
  • I’m out of beer.
  • I swallowed toothpaste. I didn’t spit it out. Will it make me sick?
  • There's a dead crow in my yard. Could I get West Nile disease from it?
  • I don't need an ambulance, but if I do, how much does it cost?
  • I have a doctor's appointment in the morning. Could you call me at 8:00 so I'm not late?
  • What’s the phone number to the hospital nearest to me?

BCAS Director of Dispatch Operations Gord Kirk oversees dispatch centres in Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops, as well as the more than 240 dispatch staff who serve the province.  He strongly recommends that 9-1-1 calls for ambulance service be used for medical emergencies only.

“It’s important to remember that we’re here to help people with emergency medical situations," Kirk says.

"Calls that are inappropriate divert resources from those who need swift medical attention."

BCAS encourages the public to dial 9-1-1 for assistance during a medical emergency, but an alternative to calling an ambulance include contacting the 8-1-1 tele-health service, accessing a walk-in clinic, making an appointment with a family doctor or visiting a hospital emergency department if necessary.

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