AH, it’s that time of the year when thousands of South Asians will be calling family members and friends in India to say “Happy New Year.”

But if you are calling up someone in Delhi or some cities in Punjab whose code starts with “1” you should make sure that you dial “011” FIRST.

When you call someone in Delhi (code 011) or in some cities and towns in the Indian state of Punjab such as Chandigarh (code 0172), Amritsar (0183), Ludhiana (0161) and Patiala (0175),  you will end up dialling “911” if you forget to dial “011” first. That is because the code for India is “91.”

After police officers had to waste precious time and resources attending a whopping 20,000 false or abandoned “911” calls in Surrey in 2009 (an

increase of more than 40 per cent over the previous year), the city asked Telus to help them out with the problem. Of course, not all of the false or abandoned calls were because of South Asians inadvertently dialling the wrong code, but Telus started working on an awareness campaign at the time.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet told Asian Journal this week: “It still happens every once in a while, but we see it less and less. I think people are more cognizant of what happens when the wrong numbers are dialled and police officers show up at their doors. So we still see it, but it’s very rare now.”

One reason why the number of false 911 calls might have dropped so drastically is because over the past few years more and more people in India have switched over to cell phones for which you don’t dial the city code.

But if you are calling a landline, please don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment and forget to dial “011” FIRST – before dialling the code for India – “91” – followed by the city code.