A recent report from Peel Regional Police revealed that more than one-third of calls made to 911 dispatchers in Peel Region this year weren’t actually emergencies.

In January and February of this year alone, dispatchers received a total of 65,547 calls to 9-1-1, of those calls, 28,298, or 36 per cent, were non-emergencies that didn’t warrant a call to 9-1-1.

Veteran 9-1-1 dispatcher Sarah Runge says she’s received some bizarre calls over the years, including inquiries on how to start an oven, how to work a smartphone, how to get into a computer they’ve forgotten the password to. People have even called inquiring about how to become a police officer.

9-1-1 dispatchers are trained to respond to calls effectively, but the reality is that every non-emergency delays the response time for police officers, firefighters and paramedics in the event of real emergencies

So what constitutes a real emergency? “A 9-1-1 emergency is a situation in progress, so it’s happening right now. It’s a theft in progress, it’s somebody trying to break into a car, it’s a fire and it’s someone in immediate danger and needing medical attention,” says Peel Regional Police. “If it happened yesterday or you thought about it for a few hours first, it is not an emergency.”

If you’re in a not-so-dire situation you can call the non-emergency number at 905-453-3311 and ask for communications.

Peel Regional Police suggests a few things to get the best help possible, whether you’re calling 9-1-1 or the non-emergency line. First, don’t hesitate to call for help, if you’re not sure where to call, try the non-emergency line first.

Next, Runge says the best information you can provide is your location. “When you call from your cell phone and you don’t tell us where you are, it’s going to take me a long time to get you help. We may have a general area of where you are but if you are having an emergency, it slows us down if you don’t give us your location. If you can only give us one thing, make sure it’s your exact location.”

For more information on when to call 9-1-1, check out this page.

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