April 10–16 is Emergency Service Dispatchers and 911 Awareness Week, and the RCMP wants the public to know how they can help the women and men who work in the province’s Operational Communications Centres (OCCs), answering non-emergency and 911 calls.
Many of the calls received by dispatchers are false or abandoned 911 calls. A common cause of them is what’s known as “pocket dialing”, which occurs when an unsecured cellphone dials a number, often because the owner has it in his or her pocket and accidentally depresses one of the keys. Pocket dialing can be avoided by locking your cellphone when it’s not in use.
“Don’t panic if you call 911 by mistake, and stay on the line,” advises Ashcroft Const. Nick Theoret. Letting the dispatcher know it was a false alarm “Does help us in determining if it’s a real emergency or something we need to follow up on.” If you don’t do this, the operator needs to ensure that the caller is okay. This can be as easy as calling the number back to make sure everything is fine. If there’s no answer, however, the operator must try to track the location of the phone and then send police to the site, which ties up valuable resources.
Before you dial 911 for the police, be sure that it really is an emergency: lives are in danger, a serious crime is in progress, or the police are needed immediately. If the crime has already been committed and the suspects are gone, or no lives are in danger, call the local detachment’s non-emergency number.
When you dial 911, be prepared for questions, some of which may not seem relevant. The operators need this information to make sure the responding officers fully understand the situation, so try to stay calm and answer as fully as possible.. “The call taker will already have dispatched police,” says Theoret, “and will then update us with more information as it’s gathered.”