Friday, February 1, 2008

Most 911 callers should not have called 911

In Canada, Ontario Provincial Police officers dealt with an inordinate amount of inappropriate 911 calls in 2007 — ranging from people who hit the wrong speed dial number on their phone to those who thought it would be fun to play a prank on the police.

According to Constable Mark Kinney, of the 850 calls to 911 in Huronia West's service area, 724 (85 per cent) were not legitimate.

"We're getting people wanting to know what roads are like," he said. "A lot of the calls are individuals misdialing because they have a new phone, and put 911 on speed dial."

Kinney said in two instances last year, the caller was charged: in one case, a man was pretending he was stranded in the middle of Georgian Bay; in the other case, a gentleman who had imbibed called 911 "to see if it worked.

When someone calls from a phone booth, there's no indication of a callback number, nor is there a response to the 911 operator, so emergency services — fire, police and paramedics — have no idea what they're responding to. "It's not beyond the grasp of reality that someone, with their last gasp, has been able to hit 911," Kinney said. "That's why we respond to all these types of calls in a high priority. "It's putting the resources at risk, and it's putting the people who are responding at risk."

Huronia West officers respond to approximately 14,000-to-15,000 calls for service a year; Kinney noted those 724 calls represent about five or six per cent of all calls, resources that could be better used elsewhere.

Police ask that parents teach their children the proper use of 911, and that telephones are not toys. People are also being asked to remove the number from speed dial. (info from the Collingwood, Ontario Enterprise Bulletin)

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