9-1-1 Emergency, or not….

9-1-1 is for police, fire, or medical emergencies when immediate action is required. Sometimes, it seems, people forget that. To make the point, one UK police service recently used Twitter to ‘tweet’ every call they had over a 24 hour period…. And they had an interesting day.

Examples of non-emergency calls


Use the emergency number for health emergencies, such as a heart attack. Make sure you have first aid training so you know what to do while waiting. This call doesn’t count, “Male called to say he has a heart problem as he is in love with a girl whom he does not know”.


Use the emergency number for robbery in progress with the suspect on the scene – like he’s breaking your window and climbing in. While he might have thought it was ‘robbery’ this certainly isn’t an emergency, “a man who wanted a refund for an expensive car wash“. The same applies here – don’t call “to report a spiritual healer for fraud” – it may be true (or not) but it certainly isn’t an emergency.

Check your cell phone

pants dial 911

Call just received from an unlocked phone in a pocket, tying up an emergency line. Remember to check your phone is locked!

This is so common our local dispatch actually produces a series of posters to educate people about the problem. These days just about any (charged) phone can dial 9-1-1, even if it’s off plan. Make sure there’s a key lock in place.

Don’t let kids play with phones

The emergency service in question said “There were also a lot of calls from children and babies playing with mobile phones,” and one young lad who wasn’t just playing called the emergency number and “requested (police) officers to come out and frighten his sister

Got to be heard to be believed

So far, so silly… but we saved the actual recordings to the end. Listen in to genuine “emergency calls” as someone complains about the lack of service at their local McDonalds, and someone else requests a new password for her laptop. (Before you listen, recall that the UK emergency number is 999 and the non-emergency number is 101.)



Tip of the hat

Search twitter with hashtag #fcc24

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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