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100,000 accidental 9-1-1 calls tie up emergency resources

9-1-1 call-takers hear everything from cheering Canucks fans to playground screams

Vancouver, B.C. — More than 100,000 calls were made to 9-1-1 by accident within Metro Vancouver and surrounding areas in 2011, diverting valuable public-safety resources away from real emergency calls.

Based on a recent analysis of call statistics, E-Comm – the regional emergency communications centre –  found that 10 per cent of the more than one-million 9-1-1 calls it received in 2011 were dialed by mistake. E-Comm estimates more than 70,000 of those calls (200 per day) were “pocket dials” (inadvertent calls from cell phones) and 40,000 more were “abandoned” calls (hang-ups).  In 2011, 58 per cent of E-Comm’s 9-1-1 call volume came from cell phones, an all-time high and up 10 per cent in just four years.  The increased use of wireless devices has also resulted in a rise pocket dials. They happen when phones are stored in pockets, purses and backpacks without protective cases or when 9-1-1 is programmed into phones.

E-Comm is asking the public to “help us help” by using keylocks, storing cell phones in protective cases and to not pre-program 9-1-1 into any phone. If 9-1-1 is dialed by mistake, the centre reinforces that callers should stay on the line and speak with the call-taker. When callers hang up, staff will call back to ensure the caller is safe, tying up more resources and in the case of hang-ups from landlines, dispatching police.

E-Comm’s call-takers have pretty much heard it all through pocket dialing.

“I’ve had a lot of calls from Rogers Arena when the Canucks were playing,” says Corey Kelso, E-Comm 9-1-1 call-taker. “I’ve heard pucks drop, I’ve heard the announcements, and I’ve actually heard Richard Loney singing the national anthem.”

“The safety of the public and first responders is our priority,” says Doug Watson, E-Comm’s vice-president of 9-1-1 Operations. “In addition to our education efforts, we’d like to see cell phone manufacturers and telecommunications industry groups try to ensure better safeguards are put in place on phones to prevent pocket dials to 9-1-1 in the first place.”

E-Comm is raising this issue during Emergency Service Dispatchers’ & 9-1-1 Awareness Week in B.C. (April 9 to 16). The aim of the week is to educate the public about calling 9-1-1 and to recognize the dedicated work of emergency call-takers, dispatchers, technology specialists and support personnel.

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Media contact:

Jody Robertson
604-215-4956 or604-640-1342 (pager)
jody.robertson@ecomm911.ca

 Backgrounder

  • E-Comm answers more than one million 9-1-1 calls annually
  • In 2011, E-Comm received 639,877 9-1-1 calls from cell phones (58 per cent of total call volume) and 464,388 from landlines (42 per cent)
  • In 2011, E-Comm received more than 100,000 accidental calls to 9-1-1, including more than 70,000 “pocket dials” and 40,000 “abandoned” calls or hang-ups
  • More than six-million calls to 9-1-1 are placed each year across Canada from cell phones
  • More than half of all phone connections in Canada are now wireless, with 75 per cent of Canadian homes having access to a wireless phone
  • In 2011, there were more than 26 million wireless subscribers in Canada – representing a rise of approximately seven per cent each year over the past five years
  • E-Comm recommends storing cell phones in protective cases and in a manner which prevents unintentional dialling (e.g. do not leave at the bottom of your purse or in your back pocket); never pre-programming 9-1-1 into any phone; keeping cell phone’s keypad in the locked position; and storing cell phones in a case/holster at all times
  • If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line and let the call-taker know if you’re safe
  • Remove batteries from old cell phones to prevent accidental calls
  • Landlines provide address information; cell phones provide general location information only. Cell phones cannot pinpoint location.

E-Comm answers more than one million 9-1-1 calls each year for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler, Squamish and the southern portion of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and provides dispatch services to 30 police and fire departments.

For tips on using 9-1-1 and more information about E-Comm, visit ecomm911.ca or follow us on Twitter @EComm911_info