stay at home order ontario

People keep calling 911 to ask questions about Ontario's new stay-at-home order

Is a building on fire? Call 911. A medical emergency? Call 911. Need to report a robbery, assault, gun fight or other crime in progress? You know the digits. But please, please do not call 911 to complain about the volume of a notification on your phone.

Not only will doing this make the cops mad enough to tweet about their disdain, it ties up valuable resources that are needed for actual emergency situations.

Police in Ontario were once again forced to reiterate this message on Thursday after the provincial government issued a notification through Canada's Alert Ready system telling everybody to stay home.

The alert, sent out just after 10 a.m. on Thursday, no doubt scared a lot of people with its jarring air raid siren tone.

Many debated the appropriateness of the format, arguing that government officials shouldn't be blasting out messages containing information that's already well-known using the same tool that police use to issue Amber Alerts, when children are thought to be in grave danger.

In most cases, people got over it fast and went back to work, sleep, watching TV or whatever they were doing before Ontario "reminded" us that a stay-at-home order had come into effect.

Some residents, however, were so incensed by the notification that they called 911 to complain about it.

Many others have been tying up the lines, according to police, to ask questions clarifying the (admittedly unclear) new COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Peel Regional Police issued a tweet early Thursday afternoon warning that its 911 dispatchers had become "overwhelmed" with calls relating to the stay-at-home order, which came into effect on Thursday morning at 12:01 a.m.

"It takes away from things that are actually an emergency when people are looking and seeking for police assistance in a medical or criminal situation," said Peel Police Const. Sarah Patten to Global News, noting that the force's communicators were already "extremely busy" every day.

"It's taking our communicators away from getting to [emergency] calls quickly because we're having to weed through all these COVID violation legislation questions," Patten continued.

"That's why we put out everything on social media, to let everyone know that what's the difference between an emergency and non-emergency for police."

Several police forces issued statements asking citizens to stop calling 911 over the alert, which in turn sparked a torrent of rage among people who hate frivolous complainers.

"Every idiot that calls 911 to inquire about the stay at home should be fined big time," wrote one Twitter user in response to a tweet from Peel Regional Police. "When are people going to get it that 911 is for emergencies only?"

"Start fining people who continually misuse 911 and donate the money to mental health services because that's what people need most right now," suggested another.

This is far from a new phenomenon, however: Police tend to issue reminders like these every time a new Amber Alert goes out due to an uptick in calls for service — not calls with tips that could help find a missing child, but calls complaining about how an alert for a missing child interrupted someone's hockey game or jolted them out of bed.

Lead photo by

Peel Regional Police

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