A 911 call taker at E-Comm headquarters.

A 911 call taker at E-Comm headquarters.

Complaints of stale pizza, no Wi-Fi among most bone-headed 911 calls

E-Comm releases top-10 list of 2014's most inappropriate non-emergency calls to 911

Do not call 911 because your slice of pizza is stale.

Nor is it an emergency if Wi-Fi at the coffee shop isn’t working or you’ve lost your glasses.

Those are some of the most bizarrely inappropriate 911 calls made by Lower Mainland residents in 2014, according to a top 10 list released by E-Comm, southwest B.C.’s emergency communications centre.

Besides complaining about the quality of take-out food, many bozo 911 callers appear to think emergency dispatchers can double as an information service, wanting to know everything from whether it’s a stat holiday to the phone numbers for taxis or travel agents.

E-Comm spokesperson Jody Robertson said people who make “nuisance calls” to 911 tie up valuable resources for people with real life-and-death emergencies, potentially putting lives at risk.

“These kinds of calls come in every day pretty much all day long,” she said.

There isn’t an accurate count of how many there are, but Robertson said it’s “way too many.”

Nor can E-Comm staff instantly disconnect those calls – they have to be alert to the possibility that a caller feels threatened by someone nearby and is concocting a cover story so it doesn’t seem like they’ve dialed 911.

“We have to make sure the caller can speak freely and there’s not something else going on,” Robertson said.

The same sorts of scenarios – is the caller silent because of a nearby assailant or because they’ve had a heart attack – are on the minds of E-Comm staff when they get a pocket-dialed call or an accidental call where the caller hangs up.

Call-takers must phone back to make sure the person is okay, and if the call came from a landline and they can’t be reached, police are dispatched.

“Those kinds of calls can chew up a lot of resources unnecessarily.”

The number of pocket-dialed 911 calls is running at about 70,000 a year, while another 30,000 are accidental calls where the caller hangs up without explaining to staff.

Those numbers have improved slightly, Robertson said, but still amount to more than 10 per cent of the 860,000 calls to 911 each year in the Lower Mainland.

She said the most frequent “head-scratcher” calls are ones seeking basic information, adding calls to report or seek information about power outages are a major recurring problem.

True emergencies are police, fire or medical situations that require immediate action because someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress.

Discovering your car broken into or vandalized should be a call to your local police non-emergency number, not 911.

“We’re here to help people with real emergencies,” added 911 call taker Warner Yang, who fielded the year’s most unworthy 911 call – that Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop wasn’t working. “If someone calls 911 about internet problems that means I’m not available to help someone who really needs it.”

Classic idiot calls from past years include callers who reported a large spider in their living room, that their TV was broken or that their son wouldn’t hand over the remote control.

Other requests have included callers seeking permission to drive in the HOV lanes because of congestion or wanting to rent a fire truck to block off a street for a party..

Top ten reasons to not call 911:1.    Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop isn’t working2.    “What’s the fine for jay walking?”3.    Pizza not fresh; wants a replacement slice4.    “What’s the number for my travel agency?”5.    Caller phoned 9-1-1 to ask for a taxi referral6.    “Is today a stat holiday?”7.    Food they ordered is cold8.    Wants help finding lost glasses9.    Home Internet is not working10.    “What’s the date today?”

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