Vancouver, B.C.—Accidental calls to 9-1-1 are taking up to 10 hours a day for staff to handle, consuming resources that could otherwise be available to help people with real emergencies, according to estimates by E-Comm, the emergency communications centre located in southwest B.C.
E-Comm estimates it handles about 200 accidental calls every day, most of them “pocket dials” from cellphones. Pocket dials, hang-ups and children playing with cellphones are all considered accidental calls.
To help bring the public’s attention to the issue, E-Comm is launching an awareness campaign on pocket dials that includes a social/online media component and targeted promotion in restaurants, bars and local theatres.
“Every accidental call must be treated as a legitimate call until the call-taker can determine otherwise,” says Doug Watson, E-Comm’s vice-president of operations.
“Some pocket dials are obvious – our staff hear music playing, party sounds, sporting events and so on when they take the call. However, our staff still have to take time to listen, make call backs and if they have any cause for concern, take action to try to locate the caller and dispatch police,” adds Watson. “The time spent in managing these calls is a huge resource drain on 9-1-1 systems everywhere.”
E-Comm advises that if anyone calls 9-1-1 by accident and is aware they have done so, to stay on the line and tell the call-taker it was an accidental call. Hanging up compounds the issue.
Of the almost 900,000 calls to 9-1-1 in 2013, 65 per cent came from cellphones. The problem of pocket dials from cellphones – the single largest unnecessary drain on valuable 9-1-1 resources – is prompting E-Comm to seek the public’s help in avoiding these calls.
“We’re reaching out to the public in a number of ways including a short animated video that we hope illustrates a serious problem in a whimsical and engaging way,” says Jody Robertson, E-Comm’s director of corporate communications.
“Most pocket dials are caused when a cellphone has been activated in a purse, backpack or pocket,” adds Robertson. “And as the video illustrates, your phone doesn’t stand a chance without you when it comes to dialing 9-1-1 accidentally. We hope the public will help us help by locking and storing their cellphones carefully.”
More information on how to avoid accidental calls can be found at ecomm911.ca
Tips to avoid accidental calls:
– Lock and store your cellphone carefully. Using a case or holster can help avoid unintentional dialing.
– Don’t program 9-1-1 into any telephone.
– If you dial 9-1-1 accidentally, stay on the line and tell the call-taker. Don’t hang up.
Examples of real pocket dial audio from Vancouver and Richmond 9-1-1 calls:
E-Comm answers almost 900,000 9-1-1 calls each year for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, Whistler, Squamish and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (South) and provides dispatch service to 32 police and fire departments.
E-Comm Corporate Communications