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Police see high costs from pocket 9-1-1 calls

GUELPH - The OPP is not the only police service that has seen a big jump in accidental calls to its 9-1-1 emergency number.

Guelph Police Service Sergeant Douglas Pflug said recently the city service is already plagued by such calls with the year barely started. Last year it had on average 10 pockets calls per day, totaling over 3,500 by year’s end.

Before the second full week of this year, “We have already received 83,” Pflug said.

Police services are seeing an increase in pocket dialed and unintentional 9-1-1 calls that represent a threat to public safety and negatively impact police resources according to the Ontario 9-1-1 advisory board and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP).

“With more and more people using mobile devices, our police services are reporting an increase in unintentional 9-1-1 calls and so-called pocket dials,” said Inspector Paulo Da Silva of York Regional Police. “When unintentionally dialed calls are made to 9-1-1 call centres, they become a public safety issue.”

Pocket dials happen when a phone in a pocket, purse or backpack is accidentally pressed. Such calls tie up phone lines that deliver 9-1-1 calls to public safety answering points. That  affects its ability to respond to real emergencies.

The board and the chiefs association found that hundreds of unintentional and pocket dialed 9-1-1 calls are being received daily where no emergency exists. For example:

- The Toronto Police Service got 1,227,791 calls to 9-1-1 in 2011. One in five calls was not a valid emergency. Pocket dials accounted for 107,748, or half of the false calls; misdialed calls (116,770) accounted for the remainder;

- York Regional Police had 97,886 unintentional 9-1-1 calls from wireless devices in 2011, accounting for 37.33% of all 9-1-1 calls received;

- London Police Service received 6,622 pocket dials from August to November last year, averaging 11.24% of total 9-1-1 calls; and

- Peel Regional Police received 80,724 unintentional 9-1-1 calls from wireless devices between June 1 and Dec. 31 last year,accounting for 33% of the 9-1-1 calls received.

For every such call received, a 9-1-1 emergency telecommunicator must determine if  an emergency exists. Police are concerned because every second counts when someone is waiting for an emergency communicator to pick up a 9-1-1 call and dispatch police, emergency medical services, or fire.

Turning off the phone when it is not in use and storing it safely is the recommendation from officials.

Pflug said, “I hope we reduce pocket calls and increase safety in Guelph-Wellington.”

January 20, 2012


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