As if 2021 wasn’t ridiculous enough without a list of the most obscure reasons to call 911.

When a crisis strikes, it’s comforting to know that you can call 911 and have a trained professional direct emergency services to come to your aid. Some British Columbians, however, may need a refresher on what exactly an “emergency” as nuisance calls continued to divert time during E-Comm’s busiest year in its 22-year history.

According to E-Comm, BC’s largest 911 centre, the company received more than 1.9 million 911 calls in 2021, with many of the busiest days having occurred last year.

Despite three provincial states of emergency, the ongoing pandemic and high demand for police, fire and ambulance services, E-Comm call takers continued to field non-urgent calls.

Familiar consumer complaints and general questions about COVID-19 put a strain on emergency call-taking as E-Comm dealt with record-setting influxes of calls from people experiencing real life or death emergencies.

“Our staff worked tirelessly throughout the heat dome, wildfires and flooding emergencies to support our first responder partners and get help to those who needed it as quickly as possible. It was disheartening to learn that we continued to receive 9-1-1 calls from people looking for information or trying to make general service complaints when so many communities were experiencing critical emergency situations,” said Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm’s executive director of communications.

“Our call takers are trained to treat every call that comes through as an emergency, until they can determine otherwise. Every second that they spend speaking with someone who is upset about a mixed up coffee order or wanting to report a messy roommate, is time they could have been helping someone in a life-threatening situation.”

E-Comm’s top 10 most ridiculous calls to 911 in 2021

  1. The barista mixed up their coffee order
  2. A pedestrian was splashed on the sidewalk
  3. Requesting a COVID test
  4. Enquiring about becoming a 9-1-1 call taker
  5. Wanting to know where they could vote during the federal election
  6. Looking for weather updates
  7. Asking for directions
  8. Wondering why the bus wasn’t coming
  9. Enquiring about COVID restrictions
  10. Reporting a messy roommate

“At a time when demand for emergency services is higher than it ever has been, it is extremely concerning that people continue to misuse 9-1-1 lines,” explains Bradley.

“9-1-1 is the first point of contact for someone experiencing a life or death emergency, it is critical these lines are free from non-urgent situations so our call takers can get people the help they need, as quickly as possible.”

E-Comm is reminding callers that any time a 911 line is taken up for the reason that does not require immediate action from emergency services, lives could be at risk.

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