Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Accidental 9-1-1 calls reach emergency proportions

Accidental calls to 9-1-1 are reaching emergency proportions.

Almost one third of all calls to 9-1-1 are accidental, potentially hindering rescue efforts during a real emergency, and the people at 9-1-1 are asking for your help.

“Every year, 9-1-1 receives over 400,000 calls from people who may need emergency services, but about 300 per day are accidental, which could hinder response times,” says Steve Dongworth, Chief Superintendant of Public Safety Communications.

Accidental calls occur for a number of reasons.

The biggest cause of accidental 9-1-1 calls is errant calls from cell phones stuffed in a pocket or handbag, otherwise known as “pocket dials.” Blackberries have an “Emergency Call” function that can dial 9-1-1 even if the keypad is locked. Talk to your cell phone service provider to find out how to safely carry your phone to prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls.

Children playing with phones are another major cause of accidental 9-1-1 calls and inactive cell phones can dial 9-1-1 even without a plan or ‘pay as you go’ minutes. Removing the batteries from old cell phones will prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls.

If you do accidently dial 9-1-1 from your home or cell phone stay on the line and tell the Emergency Communications Officer what happened.

“Hanging up is a big issue for the Emergency Communications Officers who must call you back to make sure you’re safe and that could tie up a line for someone who really needs it,” says Dongworth.

“We need to keep 9-1-1 for emergencies. We want Calgarians to be aware of the significance of accidental 9-1-1 calls. Little changes to how people do things could save lives,” says Dongworth.

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