EDITORIAL: Think twice before calling 9-1-1

You hear an unusual noise in your home, and you investigate.

You find your spouse in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. There’s no sign of consciousness, and skin colour is poor.

You call 9-1-1, but there’s a delay in response to your emergency because several people have called the dispatcher just before you did to ask idiotic, inappropriate and/or time-consuming questions.

Emergency medical dispatchers at the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) answered more than 394,000 9-1-1 calls last year.

Many involved life-threatening situations, but some just distracted dispatchers from handling legitimate emergency calls.

Some examples from BCAS:

• 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 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 so I'm not late?

• What’s the phone number to the hospital nearest to me?

• I’m out of beer.

Let’s be clear, people. The 9-1-1 number exists for more than 240 dispatch staff to deal with legitimate emergencies in B.C.

Alternatives to requesting 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. Hospital emergency departments triage all patients who arrive, including those by ambulance.

Please remember this the next time you think about calling 9-1-1. Somebody else’s life could be at stake.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Coaching vet pens baseball tome
Coffee with...Universe is the limit for Stevenson
Editorial cartoon, Oct. 30

Community Events, October 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 30 edition online now. Browse the archives.