Should you call 911? Tips when calling emergency help

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When to call 911:

Call 911 only when there is imminent danger. This means life-threatening situations or events that are about to happen. These could be:

  • Any crime in progress (example: break and enter, robbery, etc.)
  • Any situation where people or property are at risk (example: fire, children on ice, etc.)
  • Any medical emergency (example: heart attack, accidental poisoning)

What if you’re not sure?

For health emergencies:
Call Health Links Info Sante at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or toll-free 1-888-315-9257.

  • A registered nurse will help you decide if it’s an emergency.
  • Ask for a translator if you can’t speak English.

911 sends an ambulance for life-threatening conditions. An ambulance costs around $250 (2020). The nurse may tell you to go to an Urgent Care Centre for non-life-threatening conditions.

Other situations:
Call the Police Non-emergency number: 204-986-6222. For example, a crime has happened and the criminal has left. Report as much information as you can but do not put yourself in danger to get details. Think of your safety first.

What if you accidentally call 911?

Don’t hang up. Tell the dispatcher that you made a mistake. You will waste their time if you hang up. 911 must call back all dropped calls.

To prevent accidental calls:

  1. Don’t put 911 on your mobile phone’s speed dial or auto-dial. Go to device settings. Call your cellphone service provider for help if you can’t change the setting.
  2. Don’t pre-program 911 into your home or business phone.
  3. Lock you phone keypad.
  4. Don’t let your kids play with your phone.

Remember: Mistake or non-emergency calls prevent operators from getting urgent or life-threatening emergency calls.

Important things to remember when calling 911:

  1. Stay calm. Do not panic.
  2. Know your location. Say your exact address or location clearly so that they can send help quickly.
  3. Answer the dispatcher’s questions. The dispatcher will ask many questions. Answer all questions as clearly as you can. Don’t hang up until the dispatcher says so.
  4. Follow instructions. Listen carefully and follow the dispatcher’s instructions. They are trained for emergency situations. They know the best way to help.

If you cannot speak: Ask for a translator if you can’t speak English. If you can’t speak because of injury or danger, leave the phone on. The Communications Operator will hear what is going on. They will send help.
Article updated July 9, 2020.
Sources: Calling for emergency services in Manitoba, Medical Transportation Coordination Centre; Emergencies and calling 911,; Reporting Emergencies, Winnipeg Police Service; and When you should and shouldn’t call 911, Allie Johnson, Safe Bee. Retrieved December 13, 2018.

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Community Resources

Always be ready for an emergency. Read the following:
What to do in a health emergency
Fire safety tips for newcomers
What do you do when a burglar breaks into your home?

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