Wednesday April 16, 2014

question of the week

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An absurd waste of resources

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The 9-1-1 dispatchers at E-Comm in Vancouver have a tough job.

These men and women are a lifeline to people in need, whether they are in medical distress or need help from police or firefighters, dispatchers are there 24/7/365 to assist. Without them, many people’s lives could be in jeopardy.

Most people know that you should be dialling 9-1-1 only in an emergency, but to our surprise and shock, many people do not.

Every Friday, E-Comm tweets its head-scratching calls of the week. And earlier this week, E-Comm released its top 10 calls of the year, their rather absurd Year in Review. The list was complied based on Twitter response from followers and input from staff.

• “I’d like to speak to someone about renting a fire truck to block off a street for a party.”

• A caller phoned 9-1-1 to get their date’s contact information so they could confirm details of their plans.

• A caller phoned 9-1-1 to report a missed newspaper delivery.

• Caller asks 9-1-1 if they could get the OK to drive in the HOV lane because “traffic is backed up and they are late for an important meeting.”

• Caller dials 9-1-1 to activate voice mail on his cell phone.

• “I threw my phone into the garbage can and can’t get it out.”

• Caller dials 9-1-1 to ask for a morning wake-up call.

• Caller dials 9-1-1 to ask how to call the operator.

• “Can an officer come over to tell my kids to go to bed?”

• “My son won’t give me the remote control.”

We can’t believe that some people could be so clueless. I need a fire truck to block off a street for a party? What! Are you serious? So while the fire department is out blocking off the street, they won’t be able to respond to a real fire call. This situation would never happen, because the fire department would never honour such a bogus request, but obviously there are people out there who simply just don’t get it.

All of these calls take away valuable and precious time for the dispatchers, time that people who are in an emergency situation simply do not have.

We have no idea if any of these top 10 calls originated from the Sunshine Coast. We sure hope they didn’t. We’d like to believe that residents here on the Coast would know better — but who knows?

In the meantime, the Sunshine Coast will soon be getting the bc211 information and referral line. First introduced to Canada in 2002, the 211 line operates 24/7 year-round and is intended to reduce confusion, frustration and delay for users, while freeing up 9-1-1 operators to handle real emergencies. Let’s hope callers will utilize this service and stop calling 9-1-1 when they don’t get their newspaper delivered.

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