Police are reminding people not to call 9-1-1 after an earthquake

Jul 5 2019, 4:47 pm

Amidst a pair of earthquakes on Wednesday night and three quakes off the coast of BC on Friday morning, police and emergency services have stepped forward to explain when and when not to call 9-1-1 during an earthquake.

E-Comm 9-1-1, British Columbia’s largest emergency communications centre, reminds people that emergency lines should be kept clear in case of life or death emergencies.

In addition to non-emergency information sources, E-Comm 9-1-1 has also shared the following tips on how to help following an earthquake:

  • After the shaking stops and it’s safe to come out from cover, ensure all phones are off the hook
  • Do not use the telephone immediately unless there is a life at stake
  • If you have a serious emergency, dial 9-1-1. If you hear a busy signal, hang up and dial again.
  • If you receive a recorded announcement, stay on the line and wait for a call-taker. Do not hang up.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 to ask questions about the earthquake.
  • Listen to your radio and TV for instructions and information, including finding out when it’s clear to telephone relatives and friends.

It’s a sentiment the Abbotsford police felt was too good to ignore, even reposting an infographic from E-Comm 9-1-1 to their Instagram.

A 2015 earthquake in BC resulted in hundreds of non-emergency calls to 9-1-1

During a 4.7-magnitude earthquake that was felt in southwestern BC in December of 2015, communications centres received 318 calls in the 15-minute period following the quake.

“I was working that night and the calls that I took were not emergencies,” says Megan Wong, a 9-1-1 operator, in a 2016 news release. “People were calling with questions or statements like: Was that an earthquake? My whole house just shook.”

According to Wong, when people call 9-1-1 for non-emergency reasons, they tie up valuable resources.

“There are many great resources of information that don’t involve calling 9-1-1, such as: Prepared BC, the Government of Canada, Emergency Info BC, and other non-emergency resources,” says Jody Robertson, E-Comm’s director of corporate communications. “The message we want to send is that 9-1-1 resources are finite and lines need to remain open to those with true emergencies.

British Columbians can also find more information about who to call during or after an earthquake online.

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