Yellowknife first responders struggle to handle number of calls

The City of Yellowknife urged residents to only call for an ambulance in emergencies as first responders face “high volumes” of calls during the city’s Covid-19 outbreak.

In a Friday news release, the city said people should only call 9-1-1 or 873-2222 during a life-threatening emergency or if someone is experiencing chest pain or tightness; sudden numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg; or has large burns, severe bleeding, difficulty breathing, extreme pain, or is unconscious. 

Don’t call an ambulance, the city said, for minor cuts or abrasions, to get quicker attention at the hospital, for public nuisances, if a person can be safely transported to hospital in a private vehicle, or if the issue can be addressed through an appointment with a family doctor or at a walk-in clinic.


“If we can reduce the number of calls and call-outs for incidents that do not require an emergency response, we can improve the availability of services to those who need it most,” the news release stated.

The city said the Yellowknife Street Outreach van can be reached at (867) 445-7202. The van helps vulnerable people who need assistance getting to a safe location. 

The city’s plea comes as the number of Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions in Yellowknife rises. 

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been 30 related hospital admissions in the territory, including 12 admissions to intensive care. The vast majority have been during the most recent outbreak. 

As of Thursday night, there were 255 active cases of Covid-19 in the territory. That figure included 160 active cases in Yellowknife. A 10-day order tightening gathering restrictions will take effect in Yellowknife, Dettah, and Ndilǫ at 11:59pm on Friday, an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19. 


This is not the first time that concerns about misuse of emergency numbers have been raised in the NWT.

In March 2020, it was revealed that of the estimated 9,000 calls 9-1-1 dispatchers answered during the first four months in which the service was available, 66 percent weren’t emergencies

Last October, Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby voiced concerns in the Legislative Assembly that the territory’s 9-1-1 service was being underfunded, saying she worried about dispatcher burnout.