Police are considering establishing a single national phone number for non-emergency calls to lighten the load on the 111 system.
An increase in people calling 111 over the past five years has prompted police to think about how to improve the service, and they say that a non-emergency number would mean they could better respond to high-priority incidents.
Figures provided to the Herald under the Official Information Act show police answered more than 628,801 111 calls last year - about 17,000 more than 2013.
They answered 88 per cent of those calls within 10 seconds, with most calls taking just four seconds to be picked up.
Public confidence in the system was shaken in 2004 when Auckland woman Iraena Asher disappeared from Piha. She had called police, but a taxi for her was sent to Paihia Rd in Onehunga instead of Piha. The botched handling of the call prompted a major review of the system.
Assistant Commissioner Superintendent Dave Trappitt said one way to improve the system was to weed out the lower-priority calls.
He said only 27 per cent of 111 calls diverted to police were for emergencies that required "high-priority dispatch".
"You ring 111 for an emergency, but despite that, the bulk of the calls we get are not," Mr Trappitt said.
"One of the reasons why is that we don't have a single non-emergency number. In overseas countries they do have that, for example in the UK ... Australia and Canada. What that does is help them create better queues, it gets the phone calls into the right bucket."
Mr Trappitt said the use of the 111 service had increased over the past five years.
"We try to do our best to get to all emergency jobs in as quick a time as possible, and response times are slowly coming down," he said.
As part of the Policing Excellence - a series of common-sense initiatives that enable police to be more efficient, effective and focused on prevention - strategies for meeting increasing demand were constantly being reviewed.
Mr Trappitt, who is the national prevention manager, said establishing a second non-emergency number was one of those strategies.
"It is potentially one of the options that we could explore and promote. We are having ongoing discussions."
Another option was a smartphone application that would allow people to call 111 and have their location immediately tracked by police.
Mr Trappitt said police, along with Fire Service and ambulance operators, had been in discussions with telecommunications providers and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about how GPS could be used to help with 111 calls.
Similar apps have been introduced in Denmark, Iceland and Malaysia.
More than two million 111 calls are made each year, and about 8000 each day. Of those, 48 per cent are "non-genuine". Of the remaining genuine emergency calls, 60 per cent are redirected to police.
Last year, the most 111 calls were made in March and October and the peak time for calls was on Saturday and Sunday between 4pm and 9pm.
Police could not give a breakdown of the reasons people called 111 but in their most recent annual report, released in October, they said they deployed staff to 183,612 "Priority 1" events - the most urgent of all incidents.
Once police were dis-patched to an emergency, it took them an average of seven minutes and 26 seconds to get to the scene in urban areas.
Number of 111 calls to police in 2014 (to October): 628,801
Median response time to emergency events
Urban target: 8-9 minutes
Actual urban: 7 minutes 26 seconds
Rural target: 12-14 minutes
Actual rural: 11 minutes 56 seconds
• Percentage of calls answered within 10 seconds of being diverted to police 88 per cent