Wednesday, June 4, 2014

9-1-1? Help! My dog licked me!

Whaddya do when something -- anything -- goes wrong? Why, call 9-1-1 of course! What if my dog, with his horrible doggy breath and wet doggy tongue, licks my face? That's right! Call 9-1-1-!

Must have been a slow news day yesterday, because CBC News made space and time for a story about people tying up the 9-1-1 emergency call service with pocket dials and calls that are just plain stupid.

The Emergency Management Office of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia [It figures. Ed.] says 20% of all 9-1-1 calls are pocket dials -- when you sit on your phone and your buttock presses the speed dial number -- or other non-emergencies. Said dispatcher Michelle Burhoe, "It makes it a little more difficult for us to concentrate on one task at a time because we're constantly stopping to answer the 911 calls when they're pocket dials."

The pocket dials cause trouble because the operator has to stay on the line until she/he can confirm that the call really isn't an emergency, which means that the caller has to pick up the phone and fess up. If the caller can't or won't talk to the dispatcher, police must respond, which is annoying for all concerned and costly to taxpayers.

Bogus emergencies are a problem too. Ms Burhoe recounts an incident in which "We had a 911 call from a man who wasn't sure if he needed medical attention because he was licked by a puppy. We [also] had a little boy call because he was terrified of a spider."

Constable Pierre Bourdage of Halifax Regional Police said officers were called to 5,300 misdialed 9-1-1 calls in 2013. "A police officer will give you a little warning," he said, "and sometimes it's a child, or the phone was knocked over. But we do have to check that everyone is safe and no one is in danger."

Bogus calls can attract a hefty fine. If you do misdial, Walt advises you to stay on the line to tell them, so police aren’t dispatched. If you're embarrassed, just say you meant to dial 9-1-2. You're welcome.

Further reading: When your dog licks your face, is he/she/it actually giving you a kiss? See Dog licking your face and what it means

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