Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Emergency Communications Officer talks about accidental 9-1-1 calls



When Donna Moore answers the phone, she doesn’t know if she’ll hear screaming, sobbing, or the muffled sounds of a party.

Donna is an Emergency Communications Officer with Calgary’s Public Safety Communications 9-1-1 Centre, and it’s her job to ensure people on the other end of the line, get the help they need.

Usually when she answers the phone, she deals with a traumatic, even life or death situation, but more often she finds herself listening to a phone from someone’s pocket.

“It’s frustrating, you have to try and figure out if what you’re hearing is a television or a real fight. We need to make sure that people are safe, but if it’s a pocket dial and no one is answering, we don’t know,” says Donna. “Time we could be spending helping someone who really needs it is instead us calling them back.”

A pocket dial is when a phone calls 9-1-1. It’s calls like this, as well as other accidental calls that account to almost 30 per cent of all calls to 9-1-1 in Calgary – about 300 a day.

Donna who has been a 9-1-1 officer for six years and was with Highway Patrol before that, says she loves helping people. “When you help a father deliver his baby, or you comfort someone who’s in distress, or help prevent a robbery, it’s a great feeling.”

Her most memorable call was from a woman who called 9-1-1 because her husband was having a heart attack.

“I was on the phone with her for 35 minutes walking her through CPR before the Fire Department arrived,” says Donna. “What if that lady had been trying to get through to 9-1-1 and I was on the phone with someone’s pocket?”

It’s always in the back of your mind, when you’re on a pocket or purse dial call – what if someone with a real emergency is trying to get through?”

There are a few ways to avoid making these calls: carry your cell phone in a holster, put it on standby or make sure the key pad is locked so it can’t accidently dial 9-1-1.

Inactive cell phones can still call 9-1-1 even if they are not on a plan or don’t have ‘pay as you go’ minutes, so it’s important to always remove the batteries from old cell phones to prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls.

If you are unsure of what else you can do please contact your cell phone service provider to find out how to safely carry your cell phone to prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls, to help Donna and her colleagues, help you.

For more information please visit calgary.ca/911

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