Dialing 9-1-1 by mistake may put others in danger by diverting critical emergency resources
Vancouver, B.C.—If you have ever dialed 9-1-1 by accident, you are not alone. E-Comm estimates that nearly 20 per cent of the emergency calls it receives are accidental. While it may be an innocent mistake, the impact of accidental calls can be harmful and E-Comm is asking for the public’s help to prevent pocket dials or accidental calls to 9-1-1.
“During each shift, a significant number of calls I receive on the emergency lines are misdials or hang-ups from people who have accidentally called 9-1-1,” confirms Police Call Taker Roanne. “Some pocket dials are obvious – we can hear people having fun, singing along to music while they’re driving or cheering at sporting events. But we still need to take the time to call people back and confirm there isn’t an emergency happening.”
Accidental calls are dangerous because they take critical resources away from people in emergencies who need them the most. E-Comm call takers are trained to treat every 9-1-1 call as an emergency until they can confidently determine otherwise – a process integral to ensuring the safety of its callers, particularly those who might be in crisis but unable to communicate verbally.
E-Comm receives hundreds of accidental calls every single day. To raise awareness around this issue, E-Comm has launched a new public education campaign comprised of two dramatic accidental call renditions that illustrate how difficult it can be for call takers to discern between accidental calls and real emergencies.
Accidental calls are a growing concern in part, due to the rapid growth of mobile devices. E-Comm has seen 79% of 9-1-1 calls come from a cellphone so far in 2022, a significant increase from 67% in 2012. As a result, we are seeing more and more accidental calls flood our emergency lines.
“Many times, people don’t even realize that they’ve called us by mistake and when they do, they instinctively hang up the phone,” says Police Call Taker Meegan. “If you call 9-1-1 by accident, please don’t hang up. As our videos illustrate, sometimes it can be difficult to know if what we’re hearing on the other end of the line is an emergency situation or a misdial. The important thing is to stay on the line and let us know so that we can ensure you are safe.”
Five tips for preventing pocket dials:
- Lock and store your cellphone carefully whenever it’s not in use.
- Know and understand the features on your cellphone and smartwatch. If you have “fall detection” or Emergency SOS functions enabled, become familiar with how they are triggered.
- Turn your device on airplane mode if children are playing with it.
- Do not program 9-1-1 into any phone.
- If you do call 9-1-1 by accident, do not hang up. We need you to stay on the line so that we can ensure your safety.
Police Call Takers Meegan and Roanne will be available for interviews on Wednesday, July 20 from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm PDT. Media are invited to E-Comm’s Vancouver location at 3301 East Pender Street, Vancouver B.C. Interviews must be confirmed in advance.
E-Comm is the first point of contact for 9-1-1 callers in 25 regional districts in British Columbia and provides dispatch services for more than 70 police agencies and fire departments across the province. E‐Comm also owns and operates the largest multi‐jurisdictional, tri‐service, wide‐area radio network in the province used by police, fire and ambulance personnel throughout Metro Vancouver and parts of the Fraser Valley.