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Halifax 12-year-old called 911 to complain about their salad, RCMP say

Last Updated Jun 14, 2018 at 11:20 am EDT

The RCMP logo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

HALIFAX – RCMP are issuing a gentle reminder about proper 911 use after a 12-year-old called to express their dislike of salad.

The Mounties say Halifax dispatchers received a call just before 10 p.m. Tuesday from a youth who said their guardian made a salad they didn’t like.

“The child was upset and did not care for what the parent put in the salad, said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dal Hutchinson.

“As a member was responding, they called back again wondering where the police officer was and that they were very unhappy with what ingredients were in their salad.”

Police say they took the opportunity to speak to the child about what happened and also about when it’s appropriate to call 911.

“While many can relate to the dislike of a salad at times, this raises a more important issue that warrants discussion at all ages,” Hutchinson said in a release Thursday.

Hutchinson said in an interview the incident isn’t isolated and those like it pose a serious risk when emergency responders go to a scene where they aren’t needed.

“Sometimes it takes us to a location out of our coverage area that is at the opposite end of where an actual real emergency call may come in,” he said.

He said he knows of various instances, including one where someone was upset that there wasn’t enough meat in their donair.

In another, an upset caller couldn’t find their television remote, Hutchinson said, while one parent was upset that a barber didn’t do a good enough job on their child’s haircut.

“On a regular basis we get (those) calls from people,” said Hutchinson, who added that improper use of 911 can result in a fine of $697.50.

Within the last two weeks alone there have been more than two dozen bogus 911 calls in Nova Scotia, he said.

Improper 911 use is a problem across Canada and in other parts of the world.

In December, a 51-year-old Florida man was charged with misusing the emergency line after he called twice to complain about the size of the meal served to him at Crabby’s Seafood Shack in Stuart, Fla., telling dispatchers: “I ordered something, and it was extremely so small.”

In 2016, the Las Vegas-area fire department held a news conference to ask people to not call over “stubbed toes and sore throats,” while police in Kentucky pointed out that people often called them to ask directions.

In 2016, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said an upset St. John’s woman called 911 to report her pizza didn’t have enough cheese.

That same year, police in Edmonton launched a public awareness campaign because the situation had become so ridiculous. They said about 40 per cent of the 911 calls they handled through the emergency service were bogus.

In December 2015, British Columbia’s largest 911 call centre, E-Comm911, issued a list of the top 10 reasons not to call the emergency line, based on actual calls received that year.

Among them: Requesting the number for a local tire dealership; reporting an issue with a vending machine; asking for the non-emergency line; complaining a car was parked too close to theirs; reporting that a child wouldn’t put his seatbelt on; telling police about a coffee shop that refused to give a refill; asking if it’s OK to park on the street; reporting someone had used a roommate’s toothbrush; seeking help getting a basketball out of a tree; and complaining that their building’s noisy air system was keeping them awake.