Edmonton police have launched a new awareness campaign in the hopes of reducing the number of unwanted and unnecessary 911 calls.

Police say on average, 911 operators receive 1,000 calls every day and 40 per cent of those calls are not emergencies, including callers wondering how to cook a turkey or callers who are upset about an order at a fast-food restaurant.

“We can have people calling us who want to know how to cook a turkey or around tax time they want information on how to view their taxes," said Kim Pudde, EPS 911 supervisor. "The most recent one we had at Halloween was someone asking us what time Halloween started."

It's an issue 9-1-1 operators like Steph Schreiber deal with each day and it can be frustrating.

"I had a guy call me about a problem at Tim Hortons once, he was upset he didn’t get a muffin. They are serious," Schreiber said.

"They really do want to talk to police about most of these issues."

Part of the campaign includes increasing Edmontonians’ awareness of the #377 number, which can be dialed, for free, from any mobile phone to reach the Edmonton Police Service’s non-emergency complaint line.

"We only have so many people who can take calls," Pudde said.

The push for Edmontonians to be more aware of which number to use when, is something that will free up 911 operators' time so they can deal with real emergencies.

Police say most non-emergency calls that are transferred come from mobile phones.

Edmontonians can expect to see #377 posters and ads in LRT stations, on LRTs, buses and in newspapers over the next few weeks.

The EPS’ seven-digit non-emergency number 780-423-4567 is still in effect and can be dialed from a land line or a mobile phone.

To date, 911 has received 329,878 calls and 237,942 of those calls came from mobile phones.

More than 40,000 of those calls were transferred to the non-emergency line, with more than 38,000 of those calls coming from mobile phones.

“We don’t want to discourage people from calling 911 when they need to but we do want them to remember that not all calls are emergencies and that dialing #377 from their mobile phone will connect them with police," said EPS Const. Michael Rott.

Along with non-emergency calls to 911, operators and officers often deal with pocket dials or situations where callers hang up before operators are able to determine what their call is about - which also results in wasted resources.

"I’ve been on a call for two-and-a-half hours searching for some caller," Rott said.

"It varies a lot and it’s a lot of wasted resources with us looking for people who have called 911 when they really don’t need help."

Police say calls to 911 should be made if:

  • Your life or the life of another person is in danger
  • You are witnessing a crime in progress
  • You are in a collision and are injured
  • You suspect a motorist is impaired

Police say calls to #377 or 780-423-4567 should be made in situations where no immediate response is required, including:

  • You need to report a crime that has already occurred and there are no suspects or evidence
  • You were in a collision and weren’t injured and your vehicle is not drivable
  • You want to report suspicious persons or activities

Click here for more information about #377 and when to make the right call.

Police say the #377 number has existed for more than 15 years but until now hasn't been publicly promoted.