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.