By Heather Killen
Nearly 16 years after the 911 service became province-wide, people are still calling the emergency service for non-emergencies.
Anyone who reads the weekly RCMP report in the Annapolis County Spectator knows the local police are called to a variety of situations, anything from corralling wandering livestock to quieting disputes among feuding neighbours.
They also get calls for more traditional police work such as investigating break and enters, assaults and frauds. While the police will respond to every call, the public is asked to only call the emergency number if there is an actual emergency.
Corporal Rocky Calhoun, of the Annapolis RCMP, says the police will respond to every call they receive whether the call is directed through the emergency 911 dispatch, or through the nonemergency phone numbers.
Help In A Hurry
“The purpose of dialing 911 is to get help in a hurry,” he said. “If you are in immediate medical distress, there is a fire burning, or you are in immediate physical danger, call 911.”
Being able to call 911 is a tremendous service, but if it’s abused it loses its effectiveness, he said. People sometimes use the service for convenience, rather than actual need.
Some call the number for general inquiries rather than look-up the number they need. The service doesn’t offer directions, or civic numbers to the public. People who need to speak to an officer are also asked to use the nonemergency numbers.
Long standing disputes, or incidents that happened in the past may be frustrating, but unless there is an immediate danger, people are asked to use the nonemergency numbers, he added.
Each time a call is directed through the 911 dispatch, it ties up an operator. If there is an actual emergency, precious time could be lost if the services and resources are tied-up in a nonemergency.
Snapshot Of Calls
“The police report gives the public a snapshot of the types of calls we receive each week,” he said. “Not all of these calls are criminal in nature, but we respond to each of them.”
Landlord-tenant disputes are not always police matters. Property disputes, road hazards, or meandering livestock are also not necessarily things that require police presence.
Even car accidents are not necessarily matters requiring an immediate patrol. If a car is abandoned in the ditch and there are no signs of serious injury, the occupants are probably safe and have found help.
If there are tire tracks leading off the road and no vehicle, or evidence of injury, is seen in the vicinity, the police are probably not needed.
Cpl. Calhoun says a risk assessment is done on each of the calls coming in and this determines the order in which officers will respond. How quickly the police will respond to a call depends on the resources available and the nature of the call.
“The risk assessments dictates the order of when, not if, a car will be dispatched,” he said. “One way, or another, the police will respond to each call.”
Calls to the community offices made after 4 p.m., on the weekends or holidays are dispatched through a central service that is located in Truro. Cpl. Calhoun said that the information given to the central dispatch is recorded and relayed back to the offices here.
“It’s the same as just phoning Bridgetown, or Middleton,” he said. “The information will be recorded and then passed back to us.”
For general inquiries and nonemergency police assistance in Middleton call 825-2000; in Bridgetown call 665-4481; and for animal control matters, call 532-7175.