How many times have you dialed 9-1-1?

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“If there is something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?”*

Urbanites call 9-1-1 and expect a response within minutes.

Rural residents call 9-1-1 expecting the response time to be measured in 30 minute segments, upwards of over an hour in some communities due to the enforcement area’s vastness.

“If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who ya gonna call?”*

Your neighbor, if you’re a Ruralist. And maybe if you are an Urbanite too because they can arrive quickly to offer assistance, compassion and reassurance in time of need, whether that requirement be Police, Fire or Ambulance.

But no one calls 9-1-1 to ask for directions on cooking a turkey. Or do they?

How about a guy who can’t get the ice off his windshield and wants a police officer to assist? Oh, and here is one that has law enforcers screaming and emergency operators shaking their heads; a woman calls to tell the operator that she rented a movie and there is a guy hitting another guy with a baseball bat and the caller wants the police to intervene.

Yes, that was a real call.

Irresponsible 9-1-1 calls tie up the service for those who really need help. So while the woman is receiving advice on how to pull the door lock button up so she can exit her vehicle, someone else may be experiencing a medical emergency.

9-1-1 is not used to provide tips in an investigation, report a crime that is already over days previously or to ask for assistance with a fender bender that occurred yesterday.

If you dial the emergency line in error, do not hang up before speaking with the operator. Every disconnected call has to be investigated in person by a police officer. Every one…….because that hang-up could represent a person in distress being forced to end the call. Stay on the line, explain to the operator the error and allow them to clear it.

One RCMP communication center received 5,252 abandoned calls between January 1 and April 30 with 63% of those originating from a mobile device. Locating a cell user is far more complicated that verifying a dropped land line call. An officer has to contact the service provider and utilize the user’s GPS, triangulate a location and then physically make contact.

“Pocket Dialing” is a phrased coined by the RCMP to explain calls made from mobile devices accidentally. Mobile device users often carry them in a pocket or hand-bag, and while searching for something else, the 9-1-1 buttons are pushed. Dead air is generated while police search for the caller, who could very well be a person in distress.

Law enforcers further advise not to program your mobile device or land line for 9-1-1 Speed Dialing. This will prevent that one button from being pressed inadvertently.

Rural Crime Watch encourages readers to call your sister, brother or mother-in-law for the cherry pie recipe and reserve 9-1-1 for life threatening incidents.

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Our appreciation to Ray Parker for his *GhostBusters’ lyrics.

By Jonathan McCormick and Denny Fahrentholz