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Police agencies in Manitoba are reminding citizens on protocols for calling 911 after a flood of non-emergency calls this week. 

Most of those calls came on Thursday evening after police in Ontario issued an Amber Alert for a missing 11-year-old girl shortly after 10:30 p.m.

The girl was discovered a short time later deceased, and a second message went out notifying an end to the alert. 

alertMany Manitobans received the Amber Alert on Thursday evening.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) says the local 911 centre received a number of calls as a result.

It was a situation that, according to the WPS, could have had disastrous results for people experiencing true emergencies.

"Many people were upset with the fact that they received the notification, tieing up our emergency call takers and potentially preventing legitimate emergency calls from getting through," the WPS says.

Some of the conversations:

Caller: "I got this alert, it says to call 911 if I see the suspect vehicle." 
Call Taker: "Did you see the vehicle?" 
Caller: "No".

Caller: "My phone messaged me to call 911."

Caller: "I never asked for this service, tell the police to take it off"

Canada's emergency alert system, Alert Ready, says they are unsure why some Manitoban's received the alert. It was meant for Ontario only, and did not go to other provinces. "At this time we are unable to determine why alerts outside of the province of Ontario were received by some wireless users. Alert Ready partners are working to determine the cause of this, and updates will be provided as new information is received."

The WPS says that everyone should pay attention to the alerts.

"If you hear the distinctive tone on television, radio or on your wireless device, you are asked to please pay attention and take action if necessary. If it is not relevant to you, disregard the notification. Do not contact your local police service unless directed to do so."

Other calls tie up lines

911 operators were also tied up with other non-emergency calls on Thursday evening.

Manitoba RCMP said on Friday that a man in an undisclosed community called 911 inquiring about Zamboni rentals.

911 should only be called for emergencies.

Emergencies are defined as:

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

In other situations, your local police non-emergency number should be called. In Winnipeg, that number is 204.986.6222.

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