Accidental ‘pocket calls’ hang up emergency responders

Of the thousands of abandoned 911 calls that come in to Victoria police and Vancouver Island RCMP’s call centres in a year, more than half can be traced to cellphones

From a public safety standpoint, it’s the worst kind of pocket dial – one that reaches 911.

Of the thousands of abandoned 911 calls that come in to Victoria police and Vancouver Island RCMP’s call centres in a year, more than half can be traced to cellphones, as they shuffle around in pockets, purses and backpacks, unwitting;ly wreaking havoc among emergency personnel

It’s a problem that’s highly labour-intensive, 911 officials and police say.

“Police officers are taken off the road for hours each day just to respond and verify abandoned calls,” said Steve Cox, manager of the RCMP’s Operations Communications Centre in Courtenay. “That precious time could be spent on investigating more serious offences and responding to real emergencies.”

At the Victoria communication centre, 5,273 calls to 911 were abandoned last year, out of 43,791 calls. Islandwide, the RCMP communication centres received 162,945 calls, of which 14,825 were abandoned.

When calls are abandoned, the number is called back to verify whether there is an emergency.

If the caller can’t be reached, a police officer is dispatched to locate the caller. To do so, the cellphone service provider must be contacted to obtain the caller’s information and the phone’s GPS co-ordinates can sometimes be tracked.

“In (a) span of four months in the first quarter of this year, we calculated that just between 96 and 130 hours were spent by operators in locating and verifying abandoned calls. That time is exponentially longer for police officers on the road to follow up on abandoned calls,” Cox said.

To avoid the problem, police say people should keep their cellphones out of their pockets and lock the keypad. Do not program 911 into your speed dial list.

Const. Mike Russell with Victoria police said callers shouldn’t hang up if 911 is called, even by accident.

“911 is reserved for emergencies and should only be called for situations involving a crime in progress, an imminent threat to life, bodily injury, or major property damage or loss,” Russell said.

“However, if you misdial 911, please don’t hang up. Remain on the line and explain your error.”

ecardone@vicnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Optometrist pedals through depression, leads others for the cause

Ride Don’t Hide bike rides start, end at Windsor Park

Peninsula Streams Society to restore 120 metres of Colquitz Watershed

With goal of contributing to the recovery of cutthroat and coho salmon

Victoria City Council approves inclusionary housing policy

After years of back and forth, the policy will be ratified in two weeks

Filipino Heritage Month event takes over Centennial Square

Dancing, music and food highlight Mabuhay Day celebration in Victoria

Victoria Weekender: What’s happening this weekend, June 15-16

Car Free YYJ, a barber battle and an Outdoor Discovery Day

Homalco tour gives glimpse into area’s ‘People, Land, Water’

First Nation business mixes cultural components with wildlife excursions

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Conservation officers also apparently looking for cougar in the area

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Most Read