Police taking aim at pocket dials and unintentional 911 calls

Municipality Matters

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Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has received more than 142,130 911 calls from January 1 to June 30, 2017, and 299,100 in 2016. In 2016 the OPP was able to confirm over 2,000 pocket dials; however over 30,000 remained as unknown wireless calls.

Ontario’s unintentional calls have decreased over the last few years, but more work needs to be done. OPP is launching the #KnowWhenToCall campaign this fall to further educate the public on unintentional calls, including pocket dials to 911. They continue to urge the public not to call 911unless it’s an emergency, and not to let children play with mobile phones or tablets.

Pocket dials happen when a mobile device carried in a pocket, purse, backpack, or other piece of clothing accidentally activates the keypad, causing the emergency call. Many calls still occur when young children are given cell phones and smart phones to play with as toys. Even old, inactive devices with the SIM card removed can be used to dial 911.

For every unintentional call or pocket dial received, an emergency communicator must determine whether a real emergency exists and if police, fire, or paramedics should be dispatched. With every unintentional call received, precious seconds may be taken away from someone who really needs help.

If you place an unintentional 911 call, stay on the line to let the emergency operator know it was a pocket dial/unintentional call. Every 911 call is taken seriously. When a 911 caller doesn’t respond, that could be a sign of trouble – a possibility an emergency responder can’t ignore.

You can prevent pocket dials or unintentional 911 calls by using the keypad lock feature. 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 or password. Turn off the 911 auto-dial feature. Check the user manual, or the manufacturer’s website, or call the service provider to determine whether your device has this feature and how to turn it off. Refrain from programming a wireless device to automatically or “speed dial” 911.

Don Sherritt, Chair North Grenville Police Services Board, pointed out the impact on North Grenville residents of these calls: “For every 911 call the OPP receives, regardless of whether it is a real emergency, or an accidental pocket dial, there is a cost to the municipality. Our residents are encouraged to work with us and the OPP to help reduce the non-emergency calls to 911, which frees up officers to respond to actual emergencies, and saves taxpayers’ money. The North Grenville Police Services Board supports this collaborative, province-wide campaign because we know it works.”

The campaign began on Thursday, September 14, and the OPP is using its social media platforms to launch a public education campaign, reminding the public to be careful about unintentional, or ‘pocket dial’, calls to Provincial Communications Centres, and what to do if they accidentally call 911. Included in the campaign are posters and poster cards, and short videos are also available for use by schools and community partners to help get the message out. The campaign will run over a three week period, with the first release aimed at youth returning to school, followed by two more releases in the following weeks.

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