Trapped by an angry squirrel and other 2020 situations that did not warrant a call to 911

TORONTO – An angry squirrel, a missing playlist and a feud with the City of Winnipeg over recycling – none of these reasons justify calling 911, but they were still the subject of calls made in 2020.

“I’m just working on this new phone, just wanted to know if it would be connected,” said a caller in a transcript of a 911 call provided to by Winnipeg Police.

“Oh, okay, you’ve reached 911, do you have an emergency?” Asked the operator.

“No, I just wanted to know if it would work.”

“So you don’t need the police, fire, or ambulance?” “

“No not right now.”

“Okay, yeah, it works.”

“Thank you, hello.”

This is the number we all know to call in an emergency: 911. By dialing three digits, you can speak to a dispatcher who can tell you about the most serious emergencies.

But not everyone who calls 911 has a real emergency. And while these calls make for funny headlines, they also waste time for dispatchers performing critical service.

“We get quite a few calls that definitely shouldn’t go through 911,” Stacey Cann, communications supervisor for the Winnipeg Police Department, told in a phone interview.

This year’s list of the most absurd nuisance calls to 911, provided to by several police departments, includes examples ranging from the most relevant to the strangest.

Parental injustice has surfaced in 911 calls this year – a Toronto teenager called 911 because his mother had unplugged the wifi.

Another example provided by Toronto Police was a woman who called 911 because she “was trapped in her own house because of an angry squirrel in a tree.”

A woman with a common problem – being late for a train at Toronto Union Station – called 911 in search of an unusual solution: She wanted a police escort to take her downtown.

Saskatchewan RCMP F Division, which serves the majority of Saskatchewan outside of major cities, has compiled a list of its top 10 911 calls that “missed the mark” this year. An upset caller was panicked because he “couldn’t find his music playlist on his cell phone.”

A few calls from Saskatchewan presented perceived failures in customer service.

One caller told 911 operators that a cup of coffee they had just purchased was cold, while another caller wanted backup for a dispute they had with a gas station attendant. The source of the fight? The clerk “refused to remove the customer’s debit card from the customer’s debit machine.”

Another caller from Saskatchewan wanted to know if 911 could give them recommendations for a good restaurant to eat because they were coming from out of town and didn’t know what was open.

Some calls were linked to the pandemic. According to Toronto Police, a man called 911 to ask why the library was not open, for example, while another caller from the Winnipeg area called to find out how to apply for an intervention benefit. Emergency Department of Canada (CERB).

E-Comm, British Columbia’s largest 911 dispatch center, told CTV News Vancouver last week they had seen an increase in non-emergency 911 calls where people are calling to report COVID regulatory violations -19, such as house parties or neighbors with visitors. .

“If anyone experiences a medical emergency related to COVID-19, absolutely dial 911,” spokeswoman Kaila Butler said. “Otherwise, there are better resources available. “

Some who make the mistake of calling 911 in a non-emergency situation do not know where to call to contact the police and do not know that there are non-emergency numbers for each police department that are easy to find. in line.

A person who tried to reach Winnipeg police this year called 911 about a lost package.

“I didn’t receive my item, it’s like US $ 140, I don’t know how much that would cost in Canadian dollars,” the caller told the dispatcher. “I contacted customer service and they emailed me and said they needed me to file a police report.”

Another caller from Winnipeg was kicked out of his house and just wanted 911 to tell him who to call, since the caretaker of the property was out of town.

Cann said that in the age of the internet and smartphones, the non-emergency phone line for law enforcement is easy to locate.

“Years ago I could better understand where numbers were hard to come by,” she said. “But nowadays […] you can do some quick google searches and find numbers.

Others who call 911 for a non-emergency situation are a bit more confused as to the number’s purpose, such as a caller in the Winnipeg area this year, who called to complain that his recycling bin was missing. not been picked up.

When the dispatcher asked if the caller had intended to dial 311 instead of 911, the caller replied, “I guess I thought 9-1-1 was just a general number. to complain about everything about the city. “

“No, it’s for life and death emergencies,” replied the dispatcher.

“Well, okay, my recycling wasn’t picked up today, so I kind of consider life or death,” the caller said, “and I’m pissed off at the town at this topic.”

Cann said some callers seem to think “it’s okay” if they call 911 without an emergency.

“The most important thing is that the calls we call annoying calls or inappropriate calls block the line for real emergencies,” she explained. “There are only a limited number of 911 lines that go into the system and if they are wasted on calls that have nothing to do with that line then you put someone else in. [in] a danger, fundamentally.

Winnipeg Police released an infographic this year to show examples of what constitutes an emergency, such as a friend who suddenly collapses or a break-in that occurs.

As part of the attempt to educate the public, police departments and 911 call centers often share their top 911 calls that shouldn’t have been 911 calls by the end of December. E-Comm publishes a list every year.

Saskatchewan RCMP F Division, which gave the second half of its list, will release the rest of its top 10 on December 30. on their social networks, featuring a particularly suspicious moose.

While police want to dissuade the public from calling 911 when there is no emergency, Cann gave important advice to those who may have dialed the number and then thought it over.

“If you accidentally dialed 911, stay on the phone and just let the operator know you made a mistake,” she said. “Because if people hang up quickly, it immobilizes our operators because they have to call back and make sure everything is fine. “

Many of those 911 calls end with an apology from the caller when they realize their mistake, and that’s the end of the matter. But people can also be fined for creating a nuisance by calling 911 without a real emergency.

Which brings us to our latest example from 2020, from Saskatchewan:

“A caller called upset because he received a ticket under the 911 Emergency System Act,” Saskatchewan RCMP reported. “This caller called 911 again to dispute the ticket. ”

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