Everybody knows you shouldn't call 911 unless it's an emergency, right? Yet every year callers use the three-digit emergency line for the oddest reasons.
"It is a mystery to us why. There are children as young as three years old who have made lifesaving calls to 911. So they seem to get it," said Jody Robertson, spokesperson for E-Comm, the largest 911 call centre in B.C.
E-Comm deals with 84 per cent of B.C.'s 911 call volume, covering Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and 21 other communities spanning from Vancouver Island to Alberta and the U.S. border.
'There are children as young as three years old who have made lifesaving calls to 911. So they seem to get it.' – Jody Robertson, E-Comm
The Vancouver firm deals with up to 3,400 calls daily — and using 911 for non-emergency reasons risks lives by wasting the operator's time, chewing up two or three minutes of valuable time, says Robertson.
Top 10 nuisance calls in 2015
Here are E-Comm's top 10 worst non-emergency 911 calls made this year:
1. Requesting the number for a local tire dealership.
2. Reporting an issue with a vending machine.
3. Asking for the non-emergency line.
4. Because a car is parked too close to theirs.
5. "My son won't put his seatbelt on."
6. Coffee shop is refusing to refill coffee.
7. Asking if it's OK to park on the street.
8. "My roommate used my toothbrush."
9. Asking for help getting a basketball out of a tree.
10. Reporting that a building's air system is too loud, preventing sleep.
"When one of these calls comes in, although it may seem illogical or outlandish at the surface, our call takers can't just dismiss them. They have to take the time to ask questions to find out from the caller if there is anything else going on. So they are trained to ask questions in case the caller is in distress and can't speak freely," said Robertson/
"We just want to remind people that lives are at risk when 911 is used as an information line or for any other reasons that do not meet the test of a true emergency," said Robertson.
"That is a police, fire or medical situation that requires immediate action because somebody's health, safety or property is in jeopardy, or there is a crime in progress."