Help prevent unintentional 911 calls, police urge

As the number of unintentional calls to 911 continues to increase, York Regional Police (YRP) Services has issued a reminder that every unplanned call may take precious seconds away from someone who really needs help.

“We are urging the public not only to ‘lock it before you pocket it’ but not to let children play with mobile phones,” police say, in a statement. Many 911 calls occur when young children are given cell phones and smart phones to play with as toys. Even an old, inactive device with the SIM card removed can still dial 911.

So far in 2018, the YRP Communications Centre has seen a 65 per cent year to date increase in unintentional calls to 911. Those calls account for more than a quarter (26.24 per cent) of all 911 calls received. Most of the 37,900 unintentional calls received have come from kids playing with phones or from pocket dials, which happen when a mobile device that isn’t locked is carried in a pocket, purse, backpack or other piece of clothing and the keypad is accidentally activated, causing the emergency call. Those calls tie up crucial communications resources that should be dedicated to emergency situations.

“For every unintentional call or pocket dial received, an emergency communicator must determine whether an emergency exists,” police say.

There are several things you can do to prevent pocket dials, such as locking your keypad when pocketing your phone. Also, don’t program a wireless device to automatically dial 911 or turn off the 911 auto-dial feature if your mobile device has one.

If you unintentionally dial 911, you should stay on the line.

“When a caller doesn’t respond, that could be a sign of trouble – a possibility an emergency responder can’t ignore,” police note. “Users are urged to let the emergency operator know it was a pocket dial or unintentional call. This will eliminate the need for the emergency operator to call back to determine if there is a legitimate emergency.”

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