British Columbia

Stop dialling 911 for COVID-19 violations, emergency call takers ask

If you hear a house party next door or see someone not wearing a mask inside a public place, don't dial 911.

An influx of calls relating to perceived public health violations clogging up emergency line, says E-comm

E-Comm says there has been an influx of calls pertaining to perceived health order violations. (E-Comm)

If you hear a house party next door or see someone not wearing a mask inside a public place, don't dial 911.

That's the message from E-Comm, B.C.'s largest emergency call centre, after it reported seeing an influx of calls relating to COVID-19 violations.

Spokesperson Kaila Butler says the agency has been seeing an increase in calls pertaining to perceived public health violations, particularly on weekends.

The reports can clog up lines that are meant for people in crisis, she says.

"By calling 911 to report your neighbour for having guests over, or a business that may not have full COVID safety measures in place, you're tying up those lines from someone who might be facing a life or death emergency," said Butler.

E-Comm has not provided figures on how many COVID-19-related calls are coming in.

Hostility toward call takers

Butler says some call takers have also experienced increased hostility from those who have dialled 911.

"It's really hard for our call takers if they are having those frustrations taken out on them. It's important to remember that our staff are going through the same anxieties about COVID-19," she said. "It's an unprecedented time."

Call takers must ask callers more questions than usual to determine if there are any COVID-related risks before the first responders arrive on scene.

Those who are concerned about COVID-19 violations are asked to contact non-emergency lines or reach out to local bylaw offices.

In Vancouver, they can also be reported by dialling 311.

A list of police and fire non-emergency numbers in B.C. is available at nonemergency.ca.

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