Have you ever pocket-dialled 911?
If so, you’re not alone. E-Comm —B.C.’s 911 call-taking service — says that nearly 20 per cent of their call volume comes from accidental dials.
Even though there’s no real emergency, accidental 911 calls can have dangerous side effects. Call-takers are required to call back and ensure there is no emergency and that diverts critical resources away from people who need them.
While accidental calls can be obvious, call-takers sometimes struggle to discern what they’re hearing on the other end.
In some cases, people who call 911 may not be able to communicate verbally because they are in dangerous situations. The only way a call-taker can confirm a call is not an emergency is if the person on the line tells them that everything is fine.
That has led E-Comm to launch a public awareness campaign to let people know: if you call 911 by mistake do not hang up, stay on the line and confirm the call was a mistake. The campaign includes a series of videos and dramatic accidental call renditions to show the impact on call-takers.
Although the best thing to do during an accidental call is to stay on the line and confirm it was an accident, there are some things people can do to prevent accidental calls from happening in the first place.
Cell phones should be locked and stored carefully when they aren’t being used. E-Comm encourages people to know and understand the features of their phones and smart watches — if you have fall detection or Emergency SOS functions enabled, become familiar with how they are triggered. Turn your phone on airplane mode if children are playing with it. Do not program 911 into any phone.
E-Comm says 79 per cent of accidental calls have come from cell phones so far in 2022 — a significant jump from the 67 per cent recorded in 2012.
The organization has been pushing to raise awareness about accidental calls as far back as 2007.