Advance View: Help dispatchers save those lives

Many lives have been saved by a quick 9-1-1 call.

This is roughly how it works:

A number of dispatchers sit in a room, waiting for your emergency call, and as quickly as they figure out exactly what you need, they connect you with the best help for your immediate needs, whether it’s dispatching an ambulance to your medical emergency, calling out the police to stop an assault, sending out a fire alarm to the nearest fire station, or maybe connecting you to the Poison Control Centre.

On top of that, they are trained to help talk you through steps you can take – perhaps some first aid, or advice on how to avoid the burglar ransacking your downstairs – while you’re waiting for emergency responders to come to your rescue.

But here’s the thing: they don’t always have the luxury of waiting for your call. They can already be engaged in other people’s emergencies – or dealing with time-wasting calls from people who bother them with minor problems, people who call in error, or worse still, hoax calls.

Time wasted on an unnecessary 9-1-1 call is time that might be delaying emergency response to someone truly in need.

A hoax literally can be deadly.

Emergency responders will tell you that, when in doubt, by all means make the call. But be sensible.

Sometimes callers accidentally hit their 9-1-1 speed dial, or their smart phones might “pocket dial” the emergency request number.

In such cases, it is important that you do NOT hang up until you have spoken to the dispatcher. Clearly and succinctly indicate that the call was accidental, or they will spend valuable time trying to locate you, on the chance that you are in danger.

And remember, intentional hoax calls are taken seriously.

The consequences of such calls are potentially fatal for someone waiting for the response you’re delaying, and consequently can include serious criminal charges for you.

– B.G.

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