9-1-1 Pocket Dials

Pocket Dials/Unintentional 9-1-1 Calls a Growing Problem in Ontario - Impacting Police Resources

With more and more people using mobile devices, police services in Ontario are reporting an increase in unintentional 9-1-1 calls and so-called pocket dials. When unintentionally dialed 9-1-1 calls are made to dispatch centres, they become a public safety issue and can drain on law enforcement resources. The Ontario 9-1-1 Advisory Board (OAB) brings together police personnel to act as advocates for the 9-1-1 system in the Province of Ontario. OAB is partnering with the OACP (Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police) to raise public awareness of the unintentional/pocket dialed calls. The OAB and OACP have found that hundreds of unintentional/pocket dialed 9-1-1 calls are being received daily by police services across Ontario from cell phones and other devices where no emergency exists.

Through the first 10 days of January, the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service's 9-1-1 Central Emergency Reporting Bureau (CERB) has handled 578 9-1-1 calls. Of those numbers, 58 calls or approximately 10% have been pocket or misdialed calls. Also, a further problem is persons calling 9-1-1 for information. This accounts for another 97 calls or 16% of incoming calls.

Pocket dials happen when a keypad on a mobile device carried in a pocket, purse, backpack, etc. is accidentally pressed. Unintentional 9-1-1 calls are generated from a mobile device and are not intended as emergency calls. Unintentional 9-1-1 calls tie up phone lines that deliver 9-1-1 calls to CERB which handle 9-1-1 calls.

For every unintentional/pocket 9-1-1 call received, a 9-1-1 operator must determine whether an emergency exists.  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.

What the public can do to prevent pocket or unintentional 9-1-1 calls:

• Lock keypads by using the keypad feature or put the device in stand-by mode. This will not impact a user’s ability to receive a phone call, but may significantly reduce the chance of a pocket dialed calls. Keypad locks, some of which can be programmed to activate automatically, prevent a mobile device from responding to keystrokes until the user unlocks the keypad using a short combination of key presses.
• Turn off the 9-1-1 auto-dial feature, if your mobile device has one. To determine whether a device has this feature and how to turn it off, check the user manual or the manufacturer’s website, or call the service provider.
• Refrain from programming a wireless device to speed or automatically dial 9-1-1 and prevent small children from playing with such devices.

If You Place an Unintentional 9-1-1 Call:

The caller should stay on the line. Every 9-1-1 call is taken seriously. When a 9−1−1 caller doesn’t respond, that could be a sign of trouble – a possibility an emergency responder can’t ignore. Users are urged to let the emergency operator know it was a pocket dial/unintentional call. This will eliminate the need for the emergency operator to call back to determine if there is a legitimate emergency, saving precious seconds and allowing them to move on to the next emergency call.

Let’s all do our part in keeping our community safe.