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

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read