Odd 911 calls spark plea for common sense

Firefighters in Ottawa are jumping on a campaign started in London, England that calls on people to use common sense to avoid senseless emergencies, such as getting stuck in handcuffs.

Firefighters' campaign shares tales of arms stuck in handcuffs, toilet seats, vending machines

50 Shades of Red

8 years ago
Firefighters, other first responders urge common sense after odd emergency calls. 2:21

A would-be thief stuck in a mall ventilation system and another man who needed to remove a wrench stuck to his you-know-what are just some of the calls Ottawa firefighters say they have received on the job.

Those incidents have now inspired first responders to call for a little more common sense from the public.

Last week the fire brigade in London, England said the number of people stuck or trapped in objects like handcuffs and toilet seats has risen in the last three years.

The London Fire Brigade has suggested the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey may be why it has responded to so many calls regarding handcuffs. (The Writer's Coffee Shop)

In that time, Londoners have called their firefighters to 79 incidents involving handcuffs and 18 incidents involving children sticking their heads in toilet seats or potties.

The U.K. fire department blamed some of the incidents in part on the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and has launched a campaign — which it calls 50 Shades of Red — to draw attention to the need for common sense.

Ottawa jumps on to common-sense campaign

Marc Messier, public information officer with Ottawa Fire Services, said the campaign resonates here in Ottawa, as well.

"We do get incidents where it's hard not to get a little chuckle out of that, and we're going back to the station (saying), 'Can you believe that?'" said Messier.

"We're not laughing at them, we're laughing at the situation," said Messier.

Firefighters only receive odd calls where people are not mobile, added Messier, as paramedics likely see other types of strange calls.

Firefighters also have tools that can cut through all types of metal, including cars.

It's always better when the only thing that gets hurt is their ego.

Some of the stranger calls Ottawa firefighters have received include:

  • Getting a call from a hospital because staff there needed a tool to cut a wrench off of a man's privates.
  • Responding after a man intending to rob stores in a mall got stuck while hiding in the ventilation system. Firefighters had to take apart HVAC system to get him out.
  • Numerous calls for both children and adults with their hands stuck up vending machines.

Messier said when firefighters respond to these issues they are not available for such things as fires and other life-threatening emergencies.

So while there may be a few chuckles, firefighters are preaching common sense.

"If you're going to stick your finger or limb somewhere it shouldn't go, something will go wrong," Messier said.

"You're always surprised at seeing the type of trouble people can get themselves in. It's always better when the only thing that gets hurt is their ego."