What happens when someone calls 911 by mistake?
Published Thursday, January 24, 2019 9:48AM EST
Have you ever thought about what happens when someone calls 911?
It's something that very few people think of, but the OPP are warning that accidental 911 calls consume a significant amount of resources for the police and other emergency services.
“The City of Temiskaming Shores saw an almost 20% increase in unintentional 9-1-1 calls from 2017 to 2018,” says Acting Inspector Joel Breault, Detachment Commander, Temiskaming Shores OPP. “For every 9-1-1 call the OPP receives, regardless of whether it is a real emergency or an accidental pocket dial, there is a cost to the municipality.”
When a person calls 911, an operator answers and determines whether police, fire or ambulance are needed, before transferring the call to the appropriate emergency services provider.
But what happens when someone calls 911 and hangs up, or pocket dials emergency services?
When a 911 call is lost, it’s called a “dropped 911” and is automatically referred to police to investigate.
All 911 calls, including dropped 911s, are treated as if they are life-threatening emergencies.
The police are then tasked with locating the source of the 911 call and determining if there is, in fact, an emergency. Depending on several factors, police can spend hours searching for someone who called 911 by accident and hung up on the officer.
This is time that could otherwise be spent responding to emergencies, investigating crimes or patrolling communities and highways.
“Residents are encouraged to be more vigilant with your cellphone, which will help reduce the non-emergency calls to 9-1-1,” says Breault. “This will free up officers to respond to actual emergencies and decrease the number of calls for service the municipality is ultimately fiscally responsible for."
Temiskaming OPP are offering the following tips on how you can help:
- If you accidentally call 911, do not hang up the phone. Stay on the line and tell the operator what happened. The operator will need to know exactly where you are so the police can verify that the 911 call was accidental.
- Remember that if you call 911 by accident or mistakenly use it in a non-urgent situation, you're not in trouble with the police. However, officers will need to check on you to verify that there is no emergency.
- Lock your cell phone when it is in your pocket or your purse.
- Do not let your children play with your phone. They may inadvertently call 911 and not be able to tell you what they've done. *** Old cell phones that still have a battery in them are capable of calling 911 even if there is no plan attached.
- Educate your children about the use of 911 and that people who are in real danger need emergency services personnel to be available.