IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: A version of this article originally appeared on ThoroldToday on Jan. 27.
“Niagara Emergency. Do you require police, fire, or ambulance?”
These are the first words a caller will hear in the region when they dial 9-1-1. The Communications Unit at the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) is the primary public safety answering point for emergencies, responsible for the initial answering of all 9-1-1 calls, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Unit employs 69 full-time communicators, who are assigned to a platoon and work on a four-day, 12-hour shift rotation.
Constable Barry Ravenek, a Media Relations Officer with NRPS, says that in 2022, the Communications Unit answered a total of 202,674 calls on the 9-1-1 line. While many calls required police assistance, approximately 80,000 were diverted to partner agencies such as fire services, paramedic services, and other police agencies.
Unfortunately, some 291,000 non-emergency calls were received in 2022 from members of the public, who reported such issues as assaults, thefts, property damage, traffic complaints, welfare checks, disturbances, motor vehicle collisions, parking disputes, and found property.
“Anyone who believes they are in an emergency situation — where immediate help is required by either police, fire, or paramedic services — should not hesitate to dial 9-1-1,” says Ravenek.
“This may include instances where one’s personal safety or property is at risk, a fire has occurred, or an individual is in medical distress. When calling 9-1-1, try to remain calm, stay on the phone, and know that help is on the way. Our communicators are highly trained professionals, and will require necessary information to ensure an immediate and appropriate response, so please let them drive the conversation and answer all questions as best as you can.”
Ravenek says that the NRPS has received these actual 9-1-1 calls that do not meet the emergency threshold:
“My neighbor is cutting their grass, and the lawn clippings are blowing onto my driveway.”
“The leaves on my neighbor’s tree are falling and landed in my swimming pool.”
“My pizza delivery is taking too long, and I’m starved.”
“My dog was just sprayed by a skunk.”
“It’s after 10 PM, and my neighbour is running his bloody snowblower.”
“Can you turn off the Amber Alert notification on my phone? I’m trying to sleep.”
In addition to wasting the time of the Communications Unit staff, such frivolous calls can be problematic, as others who are in a true emergency may not receive immediate assistance, says Ravenek.
Amber Alerts and Emergency Alerts are only issued during instances of imminent danger, he explains.
“Calling our Communications Unit is not an appropriate venue to lodge complaints related to public alerts,” says Ravenek. While police services prefer to focus on education rather than enforcement, anyone who repeatedly misuses 9-1-1 could face charges under the Criminal Code.
If you have called 9-1-1 accidentally, it’s important to stay on the line to speak to an operator to explain the error, said Ravenek. Every 911 call is taken seriously, so explaining the mistake will eliminate the need for the emergency operator to call back. It is best to lock your cellphone when not on use, to avoid accidentally calling 9-1-1.
The non-emergency phone lines for NRPS are:
For Pelham: (905) 735-7811
For St. Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, and Thorold: (905) 688-4111
For Fort Erie: (905) 871-2300
For Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln: (905) 945-2211
For Welland, Wainfleet and Port Colborne: (905) 735-7811
Non-emergency messages can also be sent online at www.niagarapolice.ca/en/who-we-are/contactus.aspx.
On a more positive note, Ravenek says that the NRPS Communications Unit is always looking for qualified candidates.
“If you are a confident and strong communicator, calm in emergency situations, compassionate, and show exceptional attention to detail, please consider applying,” he says.
For more information on the recruitment process, go to www.niagarapolice.ca/en/what- we-do/communications.aspx, or contact the Communications Recruiter at [email protected]