Stop calling 911 just to make sure it works: Vince MacKenzie

Newfoundland and Labrador's new 911 system was launched this weekend, but the fire services president says people need to stop calling the emergency line just to make sure it works.
The president of the provincial fire services association says people need to stop calling 911 just to make sure it works. (CBC)

The new province-wide 911 emergency call system came into effect over the weekend, and Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services is asking people to stop calling just to make sure it works.

Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie says people have been calling 911 to make sure it's operating.
Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie says people calling to make sure 911 works could be taking away from real emergency calls. (CBC)

But when someone answers the 911 call, the person placing the call hangs up.

"It's up, it's running. You don't need to check," he said.

MacKenzie said calling is a bad idea — for many reasons.

"There are so many call takers on the board, on the desk we'll say, and they can only answer one call at a time — they can only physically speak to one person at a time so if they're calling, the line is busy because of hang ups or people just want to check or they want to report something other than and emergency," said MacKenzie.

"911 is for emergency, whether it's a fire, something life threatening — that's what 911 is for."

It's up, it's running. You don't need to check- Vince MacKenzie

MacKenzie said when a 911 call comes in and the person hangs up before talking to the dispatcher, the 911 operator is obligated to call the number back.

"If somebody calls and hangs up, how do we know that person's not having a heart attack? How do we know that person is not choking?" he said.

"When he has a hang up, it causes a fair amount of stress because then we have to try to close the loop, we'll say, and get back to that person to ensure that it's not an emergency."

MacKenzie said he wanted to remind people to ensure they have a visible civic number on their home.

"As we're responding to emergencies, if you don't have a number prominently displayed on your home it could literally mean the difference between life and death."

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