'Drive-by callers' who don't share enough info with 911 a problem for firefighters

'Drive-by callers' who don't share enough info with 911 a problem for firefighters

A fire chief in the town of Stewiacke, N.S., says a recent 911 call illustrates a constant problem for emergency responders: drive-by calls from people who have seen an accident but don't know anything about it.

"After a snowfall people usually slide off the road and they don't really require assistance," Brent Murdock told the CBC's Maritime Noon on Thursday.

"We had a call last week where we brought a fire truck, an ambulance and I think RCMP were on their way, and when we come up on the scene, the girl said, 'I didn't call you guys. I'm waiting for a tow truck.'"

The woman was "nice and warm" waiting in her car, the chief said.

Murdock said his station deals with similarly misguided 911 calls around 10 times a year, and he knows it's a problem with neighbouring fire departments, as well.

Get info first

The chief said it's particularly frustrating because, like most rural firefighters, they are volunteers, meaning drive-by calls force unpaid responders to leave their jobs for no reason.

"Here in Stewiacke, we only have a few daytime responders," said Murdock. That means other departments are often called to help.

At least two vehicles need to respond to emergency calls, with one acting as a barrier to traffic at the scene.

If what happened isn't clear, the best response is to pull over if it's safe and get more information from the scene before calling, he said.

Murdock also warned of another problem caused by the proliferation of cellphones: cars passing accident scenes often slow down or even stop to get a photo or video for social media.

"I find that very, very disturbing," he said.