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Local RCMP grappling with escalating 9-1-1 hang-ups

Posted on December 27, 2023 by Taber Times

By Heather Cameron
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A proliferation of 9-1-1 hang-ups has been an issue in the Municipal District of Taber in 2023.

“9-1-1 hang-ups are when someone dials 9-1-1 or the emergency button on their smart phone is pressed and dials 9-1-1 and there is no actual emergency,” said Sergeant Stu Gemmill, Detachment Commander of the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP Detachment.

Gemmill says that in 2023, the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP Detachment have been dispatched 630 times to instances where the person on the phone did not mean to phone 9-1-1 or there was no emergency. 

“It is an issue as it ties up 9-1-1 operators, dispatchers, police, and possibly other emergency services which may take away from another matter that needs their attention,” said Gemmill.

Gemmill says that when a 9-1-1 hang-up occurs, a police officer is dispatched to investigate and this includes attendance to a residence, contacting the phone number, and/or obtaining information from that person. 

“Once the call has been made, the best thing you can do is stay on the line to speak with the operator,” said Gemmill. “They will have a set of questions for you, name, DOB, address, phone number. A police officer will still be dispatched, and you can expect a call from an officer who may have a few more questions for you. Police realize that people make mistakes, however, we still need to do our best to ensure that you, or someone else using your phone did not call for a legitimate reason.”

Gemmill says that Section 2 of the 9-1-1 Act established a 9-1-1 levy to provide a means by which wireless subscribers contribute towards funding of public safety answering points (call centres); to promote and enhance public safety by supporting the funding of public safety answering points; to support public safety answering points to enhance their existing capacity and their continued ability to provide reliable 9-1-1 services; to support public safety answering points in integrating and supporting new technology with respect to providing 9-1-1 services, and any other purpose prescribed in the regulations. Section 8 of the Act, Gemmill says, makes it an offence to make frivolous or vexatious 9-1-1 calls. Gemmill says that this charge is not laid often as nearly all mistaken 9-1-1 calls would not meet the definition of “frivolous or vexatious.”

“In most instances it is the person’s first time making this mistake, so speaking to the person regarding the use of 9-1-1 to let them know that on most smart phones there are ways to remove quick dialing of 9-1-1. Keep in mind that the quick emergency dial option can be deactivated on your smart phone through settings. Most of our mistaken calls come from cellphones that have pocket dialed 9-1-1. Deactivated cellphones (phones that no longer have phone plans) can still dial 9-1-1, but they cannot receive calls back. Often times it is children playing with these deactivated cellphones that make these calls.”

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