Ontario police force will now text you if you make an accidental 'pocket dial'
It's estimated that about 90 per cent of Canadians now have a smartphone and if you have one, you know it's easy to dial 9-1-1 — sometimes, even by accident.
“We get hundreds of these calls a day, which amounts to thousands of accidental calls a year,” inspector Paul Hallett with Durham Regional Police 9-1-1 Communications told CTV News Toronto Tuesday.
The police force is trying to better manage these accidental calls and has now decided to text someone first to let them know they made an accidental call to the 9-1-1 system.
Under previous protocols, to deal with an accidental 9-1-1 call, an operator would have to phone the person back to see if it was an accident or a real emergency.
The problem? Many people would not bother to answer the phone and then the operator would then have to follow up.
In the event that the line was left open, the operator would have to send police, fire and ambulance crews to make sure there wasn’t an actual emergency.
Now, an automated text is sent to the person that states, “Durham Region 9-1-1. Your phone dialled 9-1-1, but disconnected before reaching an operator.”
The person is told they will be getting a call from a 9-1-1 operator and they should answer the call and remain on the line to advise if it was an accident or if assistance is actually needed.
Hallett said, “we are getting some pretty good success because people seem to respond to text messages ... and it's really cutting our calls in half."
Another time-waster for emergency operators is dealing with 9-1-1 calls made by children playing with phones.
Halton Regional Police said last year there were approximately 300 cases of kids accidentally calling 9-1-1.
Even if it's an old phone that's no longer connected to a service provider without a SIM card, it can still get through to a 9-1-1 operator.
Emergency operators want everyone to be aware that accidental calls by children and adults put unneeded strain on 9-1-1 services.
“It is a real drain on resources and, with thousands of these calls coming in now, it's creating a lot of work and unnecessary work," Hallett said.
Durham's new initiative to send texts for "pocket dial" calls is also being put in place in other 9-1-1 operation centers across North America.
If you do call 9-1-1 by mistake, don't hang up. You should advise the operator whether it was an accidental call, first.
There are no fines or penalties — emergency services just want to stop accidental calls from wasting resources.