911 call about sandwich order among 33,000 calls that weren’t emergencies in Mississauga, Brampton

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Published May 11, 2023 at 9:50 am

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More than 33,000 calls to 911 in Mississauga and Brampton last month were not for legitimate emergencies and police are concerned that the ongoing problem could cost lives.

Peel Regional Police said via social media today (May 11) that of the some 90,000 911 calls received by emergency operators at the Peel Communications Centre in April, more than 33,000 “were deemed misuse of 911 or hang-ups.”

Police in Peel have been trying for several years to get the rate of non-emergency calls to 911 down to a more acceptable number. The rate has remained steady at about 40 per cent of all 911 calls over the last two years.

“911 is for emergencies only, such as a life in danger or a crime in progress,” police say, adding that for incidents where lives aren’t in danger or crimes are not in progress, people are to call the main police line at 905-453-3311.

In addition to the 911 caller hang-ups, which are troublesome because in many cases first responders have to attend those scenes anyway to ensure there’s no emergency, other callers misusing the system contact 911 for a variety of wrong reasons.

One such caller in April complained to the operator about a sandwich he had ordered from somewhere.

That brief conversation, which can be heard in the tweet below, went like this, according to police:

Operator: 911. Do you need the police, fire or ambulance?

Caller: Yeah, hello

Operator: Hi sir. Do you need police, fire or ambulance?

Caller: No. No. I just have a simple problem

Operator: I’m sorry?

Caller: Yeah, I just have simple problem, that I have. I mean, I’m ordering (a sandwich) and she didn’t…like refuse to give me a refund and she refused to give me anything, so I really don’t know…

Operator: I really don’t understand, okay. I’m…from what I understand, you’re complaining something about (a sandwich)?

Caller: Yeah…I order…

Operator: This is not a 911 issue where we get to take your order complaint for (a sandwich). You can call the non-emergency line, okay?

Earlier this year, Region of Peel officials released numbers that showed nearly 40 per cent of all calls to 911 in Mississauga and Brampton in 2022 were not due to an emergency. They were either non-emergency situations or accidental calls to the emergency service.

The statistics related to 911 calls were the same the previous year, 2021, when four out of 10 Peel residents also mistakenly called the emergency line.

So, it appears people are not getting the message, officials fear.

Such misuse of the life-saving service is wasting the valuable time of police, firefighters and paramedics, Region of Peel officials and police say.

“Valuable time and resources were lost. We ask our residents to ensure 911 services are used for emergencies only,” officials said in a news release last month that presented the concerning 911 statistics.

“Last year, Peel paramedics responded to more than 140,000 calls, making us one of the busiest paramedic services in the country,” said Peter Dundas, chief of Peel Regional Paramedics. “Please remember that 911 is for emergencies only, such as a life-threatening medical condition. If you call 911 for a minor illness or injury, you may be preventing paramedics from saving someone’s life.”

Last fall, Peel Regional Police took to social media to urge people to educate themselves on the proper use of 911 after it was revealed that 115,000 callers had simply hung up the previous year.

Officials say residents should:

  • call 911 only when someone needs immediate help from firefighters, police or paramedics
  • call 211, 311 or 811 or police non-emergency lines for other help
  • lock their cell phones and don’t program 911 into the devices
  • teach children how to use 911 correctly and how to recognize emergencies
  • stay on the phone if call 911 by accident so you can let operator know you’re okay and it’s not an emergency. If you hang up, operator may send emergency services to your location
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