Editorial: Stay on the line if you call 911

Because the call was dropped, RCMP didn’t know where they needed to go.

If you call 911, even by accident, it’s important for you to stay on the line.

Why this is so vital was made evident on Aug. 25 when North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were notified of a call from someone, who did not stay on the line. The mention of a gun during that call made this an immediate top priority for law enforcement.

And here’s the thing. Because the call was dropped, RCMP didn’t know where they needed to go. Only a general area where the call came from.

With the caller anonymous, police don’t just let it go. Imagine what could happen if they did, and somebody was in serious trouble (which a call mentioning a firearm could well indicate). Of course we want them to thoroughly investigate in such a case.

Just last summer there was an inquest over a case where a woman was left, paralyzed and dying, inside a home for days because two RCMP officers who responded to a call about shots fired didn’t get out of the car to look around further. And in that case, the neighbour who called it in stayed on the line (though it was a police dispatcher, rather than 911).

So it may be slightly inconvenient for you if you’ve called 911 by mistake and stay on the line, as you should. Somebody will come out to your location and make sure there is nobody there in need of assistance. You may be asked a few questions. But the RCMP will be saved the time of having to go door-to-door to make sure that nobody in the vicinity is in trouble, as they had to do on Aug. 25. That takes a lot of manpower and distracts from other calls and investigations. You may be embarrassed that you pocket dialed 911, but that’s not a good reason to needlessly tie up police resources because you’re a little red in the face. Citizen reporter Robert Barron has talked about having just such an experience in one of his columns. In that case, after accidentally calling 911, he did stay on the line, the police did come to his door and look around, and then it was all over. RELATED: Robert Barron column: Respect needed for 911 program

So face up to your mistake; everybody makes them. It’s really not that bad.

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