Ambulance dispatchers speak out over use of 911

Dispatchers Speak Out - Kelowna News January 05 2013


January 05, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Ambulance dispatchers speak out over use of 911


Almost everybody knows that in the event of a medical emergency, calling 911 is the best thing to do but it seems that many people abuse the service for non-emergency situations.

Dispatchers with the BC Ambulance Service responded to a staggering 394,000 calls last year alone and a large number of the calls did not require the services of an ambulance.

"There are occasions when all dispatchers are tied up and what it (non-emergency calls) does is it ties that dispatcher up from answering another 911 call," says Norm Matheson, Superintendent for the BC Ambulance Service in the North Okanagan.

Matheson says the scope of why an ambulance is called or requested is so vast; it could be anything from a nose bleed that won't stop, to a trauma or even cardiac arrest situation.

Dispatchers have received 911 calls for such outrageous reasons as:

  • I need you to get hold of my doctor for me -- the office is closed.
  • I'm out of beer.
  • I swallowed toothpaste. I didn't spit it out. Will it make me sick?
  • There's a dead crow in my yard. Could I get West Nile disease from it?

"We do get these types of calls once in a while but these are more of the rare ones and are certainly an abuse of our 911 operator's time because a cow died in their backyard, that kind of thing," adds Matheson.

Matheson says if someone feels they need an ambulance due to a medical condition, then by all means phone 911.  All calls are prioritized by dispatchers.

Non-emergency medical issues should be directed to a family doctor, walk in clinic or tele-health hotline.

Category: Public News